Updated: Feb 5
I'll start off by saying that I am writing this blog partly for myself to remind me later on of all the creative ideas I could use on my own kids. If you're a parent, you know how hard it can be to get kids to eat their veggies. Everyone recommends 1-2 cups of veggies a day... and you're thinking "Is that even possible?" Probably... I'll let you know when we reach that point! For now, I'll help you gradually increase the amount of vegetables they are eating because it's not about being perfect, it's about improving. You can do it, I believe in you! This post is packed with helpful links for recipes and extra tips to guide you on your journey to good health for the whole family.
1) Make smoothies. You can use ice cubes and fresh fruit, or just frozen fruit and no ice (berries especially are really, really good for you), yogurt, a protein powder if you'd like, and at least one vegetable. The fruit is sweet enough that it disguises the not-so-great taste of vegetables, and yogurt is good for your gut health, especially if you use Greek yogurt. You can either have your kids help you make the smoothies, or you can sneak the veggies in and they'll never be the wiser. It all depends on your kid. If knowing the vegetables are in there will gross them out, just don't tell them. As long as you don't go overboard with the veggies, they shouldn't affect the taste much, if at all.
**I like to make smoothies with frozen strawberries and lots of blueberries, Greek yogurt, a spoonful of frozen orange juice concentrate (it gives the smoothie a bit of tang), and some frozen spinach. The spinach chops up small enough that it doesn't affect the texture, and I can't taste it at all.. and that's saying something because I am a super-taster.
2) Make smoothies... and turn them into popsicles! What kid doesn't love popsicles? Instead of giving them corn syrup-y, 0% juice popsicles, you can make smoothies just like I instructed in the previous point, pour them into popsicle molds, and freeze them. The set I linked to has 18 molds, so you can make a bunch at once and keep them on hand for a quick and easy healthy snack! You could even add some small chunks of fruit to the smoothie mix before freezing it for extra tasty treats.
3) Make homemade sauces (or add to store-bought ones). If your child already likes spaghetti sauce or pesto or Alfredo or mac & cheese, you can either make a homemade sauce and blend some veggies in there, or just add some to a pre-made sauce. Depending on how picky your child is, you can either dice some vegetables and mix them in, or you can put the veggies and the sauce into the blender so they won't be able to see or taste them. Since I myself am very picky and have huge texture issues, sometimes I'll get the jarred spaghetti sauce from the store and put that in the blender. It already has vegetables in it, but I can't stand the chunks, so if I blend it until it's all the same texture, I can eat it.
4) Grow a vegetable garden! Research shows that kids are much more likely to eat vegetables if they grew the veggies themselves (or at least helped). Depending on the age of your kids and how much effort you want to put into it, you could do anything from one or two pots of veggies to a whole garden! Have the kids help pick out which vegetables to plant, actively involve them in the care of the plants, and let them harvest them. They'll be so excited and proud that they grew those vegetables themselves that they will be itching to taste them!
5) Use Juice Plus supplements. First off, no, I don't sell it. But I do believe in the products. As an extremely picky adult who dislikes most vegetables, Juice Plus was such a blessing to discover. It's basically powdered fruits and vegetables that contain no sugar, but are packed with nutrients. It can complement a diet that is already pretty filled with produce, and can help fill in any gaps you might have... It's really not meant to be the main source of your produce intake, like it was for me. I had figured that even if I wasn't getting the full recommended amount of produce a day just by taking Juice Plus, it was still a huge improvement over what I was previously eating... which was close to zilch.
They offer capsules (which I sometimes open and mix in with my kids' food) or gummies. The process they use to turn the fruits and vegetables into powder is specialized to retain as many of the nutrients as possible. You can mix the powder into sauces, smoothies, etc., or give your kids the gummies when they're requesting candy or fruit snacks!
**If you have a child age 4 through college age (who is an active student), you could participate in the family health study by Juice Plus and get free capsules or gummies for the child with a qualifying adult's order. That makes it easier to help change the health of your family without having to spend too much.
6) Be creative! Make "ants on a log," make different faces out of veggies, get creative. Yeah, your mom probably told you not to play with your food, but I think it's okay, just this once. *wink* You can do all kinds of fun things with vegetables, and it will not only encourage them to eat the veggies, but it will also help them realize that vegetables don't have to be scary and gross. They can be fun and tasty!
7) Offer them. It seems so obvious, but often we think "Oh, they don't like broccoli," so we don't bother to offer it to them. Sometimes they just need to taste it again, or have it prepared a different way. Kids generally need to try a new food 10-15 times before they like it (or can truly decide they don't like it). But that doesn't mean you should force or bribe them to eat it. Instead, make a meal with a couple different options - always include something you know they like and will eat, but also make something new that they can try.
Be a good role model for them by trying it, but don't pressure them to taste it or eat a certain amount. Watching you try something new and having the freedom to do the same, they are much more likely to try it than if you're trying to shove it down their throat or bribe them with dessert. Don't get discouraged if they say they don't like it, just keep trying (through different meals, not within the same meal).
Try preparing it different ways because maybe they didn't like steamed broccoli, but they'll like broccoli mac & cheese. This goes back to the previous tip - be creative! Let the kids help you make the food. It could be homemade pizza, and they can put whatever veggies they want on there. It could be restaurant-style fajitas. It could be homemade salsa or guacamole. With today's technology, the possibilities are as endless as the internet.
It can be daunting to make sure your kids are eating healthy foods, especially if you're starting from a place where nobody in the house has a healthy diet, but it is possible. Don't think of it in terms of needing to drastically change everyone's diet overnight and throw away any and all junk food. That's intimidating and likely unsustainable. Instead, take baby steps and know that each step you take is an improvement. You don't have to be perfect, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to be better. You can do it!