You don't have to force your children to eat vegetables to keep them healthy
If you find yourself begging your child to eat his veggies, this article is for you!
“If you don’t eat your veggies, you don’t get to play!” Your last-ditch effort to convince your child usually ends up on deaf ears. “Should I force my child to eat vegetables?” you ask yourself.
Parents, we all know it. It’s tiring to persuade your children to eat their greens. Your plans to provide nutritious meals suddenly fall apart when your little one eats everything but their vegetables. Let’s not even begin to talk about his carbs. And when all of your efforts on feeding them the good stuff fail, you think to yourself, maybe you can “negotiate.” But let us stop you there, don’t do it, because bribing won’t work!
You ask: “Should I force my child to eat vegetables”?
When you think of healthy meals, vegetables usually crop up as the first food group to include. And it’s with good reason veggies are a staple food group of our regular mealtimes. Vegetables contain many nutrients and minerals that are necessary for your child’s development.
So why is it okay to force your kids to eat them?
We know it can be frustrating when you’ve slaved away over the stove and lovingly made what you think is a healthy meal, just for your little one to reject parts of it, if not all of it.
Actually, mum, the one thing you really must ensure is that you do not force your kids to eat or love veggies. When you coax your child to finish the broccoli on his plate, you send two messages: First, veggies aren’t yummy and you just have to eat them. Second, you undermine your child’s independence by second-guessing his choice.
Instead, you can focus on building a healthier relationship with food. Your children are constantly learning and figuring out what they like and don’t like. They will look to you for guidance and deduce conclusions on how they should react to food.
If your child isn’t warming up to vegetables, don’t worry. Your child can get the same nutrients and minerals from other sources.
What type of food does your child need?
Your child grows at an astonishing rate. As a toddler, he needs around 1,000 calories daily to stay healthy. But as a preschooler, your little one could consume up to 1,600 calories depending on how active he is!
But not all food is created equal. It’s important to feed your child with ingredients that contain these nine important minerals and nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, folate, fibre, and calcium.
It is okay if vegetables are not always present at mealtimes. However, it’s important to aim to get the recommended dietary amounts of these nine minerals and nutrients. You can substitute veggies with fruit to achieve the same goal of keeping your child healthy. But building a healthy attitude towards food is a better approach that will make sure your child eats a balanced diet while developing as a more well-rounded character who is confident in making his own decisions.
So instead of stressing over “should I force my child to eat vegetables?” try these suggestions to encourage positive thinking towards food.
5 ways to build a healthy relationship towards food (and get your kids to eat more veggies!)
1. Be a role model
Parents, we know vegetables are good for us. They’re unparalleled for their ability to replenish and sustain our body. When your kids see how you react towards veggies, it reinforces the idea that it’s not such a bad thing.
It’s also important to take care of yourself! Eating a balanced diet keeps the whole family healthy. Let your child see you eating recommended portion sizes of veggies with each meal you share together. Eventually, the questions will follow as your little one can’t contain his innate curiosity and ask you “Mummy, why do you like veggies?”
You don’t have to exaggerate the answer, either. Giving your child an honest answer helps him make his own mind up. Building his confidence in making his own decisions will serve him well throughout school and accelerate his learning.
2. Let them try a variety of veggies
Take your child to your next shopping trip, or present a variety of options before you cook and ask which ones he would like to try. Involving him in building his own meal gives him a chance to see which veggies he likes and dislikes.
Once he’s tried his vegetable of choice, ask him if he enjoyed it. If he says he didn’t, encourage your child to try a different one next time and that it’s okay if he doesn’t like it. After all, parents also have their own preferences. Once he discovers the greens he likes, meal prep will be easier for you and he will be more assured in what he wants.
3. Make vegetables fun
If your child hasn’t made his mind up whether he likes vegetables or not, then this is a good opportunity to inject a bit of fun into food! Customise the plates and cutlery. Presenting a fancy menu can add to the experience. You can enthusiastically point out there are veggies as well.
4. Try to mix it up
Changing up ingredients in recipes that you commonly make is an easy way to introduce veggies and provide enough variety to keep your kids interested. For example, homemade kebabs can easily change between meat-based and veggie-based. Instead of chicken skewers, he can enjoy eggplant kebabs.
5. Keep trying!
Mum, you’re doing a great job! Even if your child doesn’t seem to enjoy vegetables at first, he can surprise you with how receptive he is to try new things as he grows older. As his body and brain develop, the level of understanding and how he thinks will also expand. So keep your chin up and keep trying these tips – your kids will soon ask for more veggies on his plate!
The next time you ask yourself “should I force my child to eat vegetables?”, remember that you can substitute veggies with other food groups, like fruit! But if you implement these tips, you’ll notice a change in his attitude over time!