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How to Encourage Children to Eat their Veggies

I have good news for you. It is completely normal for small children to not love vegetables (at least to begin with). And while we should be encouraging healthy eating at a young age, we also need to best realistic and and rethink the way we position healthy food to our kids.

Consider what they like

Firstly, as parents, we need to consider what foods we’re teaching our kids to like. Think about it. Many parents often reward with lollies and party foods on a daily basis; we teach them that they will get dessert if they eat their dinner. When they behave well we hand out sweet treats and take these away when they are not so good. It is our habit of craving and treating ourselves with sweet foods that basically infers that the rather bland tasting vegetables are inferior.

It's all about portions

It is also crucial to remember that kids, small kids in particular, do not need a lot of food. This is in contrast to our belief that they always need more, and that heaven forbid they are not eating enough. So, when we offer young children a couple of kids sized yoghurt treats with some juice, when they turn away their vegetables at the end of a long day, it is most likely because they are not that hungry (and probably very tired).

Stop worrying too much

So rather than obsess about what veggies your child is or is not eating, change the focus and most importantly lower your expectations. Your child may not sit down happily to a plate of boiled carrots and peas, but they many munch on some baby tomatoes or cucumbers through the day. They may enjoy your spaghetti sauce which unbeknownst to them contains a few cups of vegetables. And they may really like your special mummy juice, in which you throw some extra kale or spinach. As long as they are eating a couple of different vegetables in some form each day, you have nothing to worry about.

Be encouraging

As a rule of parenting thumb, what you focus on will continue. This means that if you repeatedly emphasise what your child is not eating, chances are, they will keep on not eating it. Instead, try very hard to not talk about food at all. Serve your regular meals or special mummy juice and give reward and praise when good foods, including veggies are eaten. And most importantly, speak about veggies as you would any other food otherwise you are subtlety teaching them that ice cream is much better than the carrots you really want them to eat. Check out my recipes packed with vegetables that kids love:

Susie Burrell’s Veggie Fritters

Susie Burrell’s Burger and Vegetable Mash

Susie Burrell’s Chicken and Vegetable Mini Pot Pies