Getting your kids to eat vegetables is, without doubt, a regular daily struggle especially if you have fussy kids at home. Do not worry, you are not alone! The most recent national diet and nutrition survey (2018) which looked into diet and health-related behaviours in the UK shows that children are on average only eating 3 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and that only 18% of children (aged 5 to 15) are meeting their daily 5 portions of fruits & veg.
Here are my fun and practical top tips to help you solve this struggle and have fun in the process!
Make it fun and a surprise!
Kids love surprises and having fun around the table. Try to create a routine of making different, colourful and surprise vegetables in your meals every day. Imagine it as a daily fun game with your kid!
Here are some ideas:
A colour theme for the daily vegetable soup.
Add vegetables to the pasta sauce or tacos and wraps fillings.
Try new colourful purees with different vegetables.
Top toasts with funny shapes and colours of vegetables.
Encourage your little ones to have fun trying different vegetables and be creative in creating funny shapes and faces with veggies. This will get them used to the texture and taste of each vegetable. You also have a good balance between having visible and hidden vegetables in their meals.
This way you would encourage your children not only to eat different varieties of vegetables but you also get them to try new tastes and textures.
Why not try it out! I promise you will get your kid to be excited for what is to come in the next day's dish, in their minds they would be wondering what tomorrow’s game will be.
Play games! Give each vegetable a funny name, for example, Chris the carrot, Benji the broccoli etc
One of the biggest benefits of getting their 5 a day is ensuring that your children are getting a wide range of nutrients and vitamins for their body needs. Try using the above tip to offer a wide variety of vegetables and remember that red kidney beans, baked beans, lentils or chickpeas are an excellent source of the 5 a day.
Be your little one's healthy role model
This is also an excellent way for your little ones to see you eating those veggies as part of your meal so they will give it a try themselves. Children love to copy so by sitting with them on the table and eating similar foods, they would be encouraged to copy you and try different foods.
Engage the family in meal preparation
I am very supportive of the idea of engaging kids into planning what meal will be enjoyed on a mealtime. Go with them shopping for the meal ingredients or simply engage them in preparing it even by just get them to wash the veggies or just pick them from the fridge. Children become more excited about eating meals they have been involved in choosing and preparing.
Don’t feel under pressure.
Do not worry if your children have not liked the vegetable you have offered, it is totally normal and will happen especially when introducing new vegetables to them. Do not feel pressurised into offering them an alternate food, just try to offer it again and be patient. Perhaps start by introducing the food in a different way such as through cooking (puree, steamed or cooked in the oven) or in different shapes and in combination with different ingredients.
Compliment the usual kid’s snacks with fruit and veggies.
It is always a good idea to include fruit and vegetables in your children's daily snacks. Adding varieties of textures and flavours of fruit & veg to their yoghurt, pancakes, smoothies, cookies is a very good way of getting them to enjoy their snacks. This also leaves behind the stress of having to get them to eat all their vegetables during dinner.
What counts as one portion of your child’s five a day?
For adults, one portion is generally 80g of fruit or vegetables, but there’s no precise guidance on how much fruit or vegetables count as one portion of your child’s five a day. There are some guides on portions for little ones, you can find them on the resources below. However, I would suggest not to worry too much about how much is a portion. The importance is more around the variety and range. Simply offer them varieties of:
Fresh and frozen fruit & vegetables
Baked beans or chickpeas
Red, green, yellow or brown lentils
Peas or black eyes peas
Kidney beans, butter beans or cannellini beans
Here are examples of dishes that I love to make for the family:
Broccoli & carrot soup: blended to give this creamy greenish colour.
Parsnip, tomato, green beans & barley soup: A great mix to give your little one and has lots of different tastes and textures.
Courgettes, carrots and pepper batons with pepper & walnut hummus dip.
Have a quick look at some recipes for our vegetable dishes and snacks for children here:
We hope these tips are useful and make your job of getting your little ones to eat vegetables easier and more fun. If you need personalised advice, we are here to help give you the guidance, tools and most importantly the confidence to help you achieve your goals.
I have also written a handy article on getting your 5 a day on a budget to learn all about the health benefits of getting their 5 a day and some practical tips to meet their 5 a day on a budget.
Nourhan specialises in family nutrition and healthy eating advice. She is our associate nutritionist with the AfN. Please visit Nourhan's profile to request Nourhan's expertise.