Sneaking their green beans into the dog’s bowl, sneakily burying their peas under mashed potatoes or hiding Brussels Sprouts on the window ledge behind the curtain, leaving you wondering where that smell is coming from. The war between kids and a plate of peas is as old as time. Even diet experts go through the same torturous trials you and other parents face when struggling to get kids to eat their veggies. Just like your children, they are also ninja masters of the ancient and mysterious art of vegetable camouflage.
If you are ready to win the veggie war then employ these sneaky and devious strategies for getting kids to eat their greens up. Here are 7 tricks for you to out-ninja them.
1. Butter Em’ Up
There is a scientific explanation behind why most children despise green vegetables like kale and broccoli. Bitterness. Plants in the wild that are bitter to the tongue signify potential toxicity. The tongues of younglings are particularly sensitive to bitterness and that’s why kids are instinctively repulsed by bitter foods, unlike adults who are used to the taste and are aware that bitterness comes from the good-for-you nutrients like calcium, polyphenols and flavonoids, inside. Mask the bitterness with butter because everything tastes better with butter. Not only does the grass-fed variety in particular contain vitamins A, E and D3, which are essential for growing children, the added fat helps their little bodies absorb the vitamins from vegetables. Just add some salt and pepper, and voila! Even picky eaters would love this.
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2. Wait Till They’re Hungry
Try waiting till they are really famished to serve up a pile of delicious veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers and red peppers. It just might do the trick.
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3. Dips Do The Trick
Studies have found that kids are more likely to eat their veggies if they're served with dip. For instance if your child likes ranch dressing, you can serve it on the side. Typically, containing MSG and soybean oil, store-bought ranch dressings aren't quite the healthiest. You can easily make a homemade dip by simply mixing garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, kosher salt, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and fresh chives into a cup of plain Greek yogurt and it’s a perfectly healthy ranch-dressing alternative.
4. Positive Peer Pressure
Kids are, essentially, copycats. If one little lemming jumps into a puddle of mud, you can bet the rest of the gang will be in there before you can shout stop. So, tap the power of their conformist behavior and send your child to a friend’s or family’s home for dinner where the children eat their veggies. The peer pressure of watching other kids eat their greens just might encourage yours to at least try.
5. Choice Words and A Two or One Deal
Kids absolutely love exerting power and control because it makes them feel like grown-ups. Try giving them their choice of vegetables by taking them to the grocery store and letting them help pick out the veggies. When kids choose what they are going to eat, they often don’t object when it’s on their plate. If that does not empower them enough, try this trick, during dinner, offer two colorful vegetable options and ask your kids if they want tomatoes or carrots or both. More often than not, they’ll want both when they feel like the decision is theirs. They'll always choose more of something when given the option, even the picky eaters.
6. Mini Sous Chef
When your children are by your side, helping you make a delicious fruit and veggie smoothie or tossing Brussels sprouts in some butter, salt and pepper, they will be much more willing to eat them. Studies have shown that children who are involved in the preparation of foods, like vegetables, develop more positive attitudes and preference towards those foods.
7. Smoothie Criminal
Sneaking some vegetables into a puree or smoothie may be the best secret to getting your children to covertly consume more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that children from the ages of three to five nearly doubled their consumption of vegetables on days when they were served pureed vegetables instead of whole vegetables. Try blending half an avocado, a half-cup of spinach, half of a small banana, ¼ cup canned pumpkin and ½ cup of either almond milk or water for a nutrient-dense smoothie. For an added nutritional bonus, you can also blend in a liquid form of their daily vitamin supplements. Alternatively, products like Pediasure provide complete and balanced nutrition for children ages 1 to 10 years old with feeding concerns.