It’s easy to start children off with an appreciation of healthy foods from a younger age, but only if you haven’t begun manipulating their taste buds with sugar. Once they have a regular dosage of sugar, that damage is taking place. But am I being too harsh?
The answer is no. I grew up in the 80s under the parenthood of no internet and readily-available research, just encyclopedias and a drive to a library. But when you have a full-time working, single mother raising three children, who has time for that? So, my appreciation for sugar ran too deep, and unfortunately, it took me 38 years to kick the habit. Thirty-eight years! Imagine how much damage needs to be reversed by then: teeth, skin, weight—you name it.
So, how do we get children to eat veggies? By keeping power in their little hands while you hold the majority. Always let the child think she’s winning while she’s obeying. In any situation, if they think they’re winning and you’re not getting your way, then they probably are.
Now, here’s what you do.
- Let’s be nice and start with veggies they like. Don’t start off with something cruel to their tongue like Brussels sprouts. Exercise some common sense and compassion to make things easier. Remember, the path needs to feel possible, not dominating and overbearing. Down the road, you’ll get your way overall later, but for now, celebrate their small victories, because it’s more for their sake, not yours. While corn is a start, it’s not impressive. From my experience, corn is easily devourable and starchy. Usually corn is sweet at the least, so this is too easy. Kids need to be challenged and each vegetable allows a different benefit to be gained for their bodies. It is not okay to rely on one source if your child is not allergic or suffering from a condition that is a roadblock to this success. So, what do they like? Broccoli? Then increase it to a few more stems than what they normally get. Also, don’t be afraid to cut the stems to incorporate the bushes into rice. Any way that a kid can see an increase of veggies in his food, take it. Steamed carrot and peas mixed with rice? Do it. Feel free to exercise creativity here without making the veggie stand alone looking like the bad guy. Imagine rice or couscous mixed with veggies with a side of protein, instead of mac n cheese without any veggies on the plate.
- If you’re ready to be adventurous, let the veggies stand alone from mixing it with a carb. Some people may put the veggies with noodles or rice. Okay, here’s the trick. Don’t do an even ratio. Add more veggies to the carb and let it outweigh the carb. Make sure the ounce of protein is an acceptable size. Remember, veggies are what keep the immune system strong. They need this. With all the sickness, why ignore or overlook this?
- If your child is being resistant to veggies and if it’s a countable portion, like broccoli stems or carrots, ask, “You can either have three stems or six stems. Your choice.” If they can’t count or visualize, help them out. Put each choice on a separate plate, and you can even play an optical illusion on them as well. Display the options on a big plate with nothing else so they see how small your request is, versus showing them on a tiny plate where the veggies appear too much for them. We always want children to feel victorious. Then the next day, increase it. The choice will then become four to seven stems. You can freeze at a number option for days until your child no longer needs to play this game. This may take two weeks. Your child will see it as a routine and won’t even put up a fight anymore. What if it’s peas? Let them see you count two spoons onto one plate and four on the other. They’ll see the difference and will know more or less.
- Once they don’t ask and have begun to accept your veggie(s) as a crucial part of dinner, we must move on. You have two options here: Leave that veggie on the plate but only as one serving. Like two broccoli stems or one teaspoon of peas. Now, choose another veggie, say cauliflower, and do the two-to-four choice. If you really wanna step it up, leave off the recently acquired veggie and start fresh with the new one implementing the same strategy.
- Don’t let tantrums and tears deter you. A child is crying because he or she doesn’t want veggies? Now, does this really make you a bad parent? But this is what needs to be endured since sugar was made a priority over nutrition. Children who have a diet lower in sugar will have an easier time eating veggies. The problem is, when we eat, we’re always waiting to process seasoning or sweets. Those two are pleasure spikes. For the love of God, please season your veggies. Veggies are tasty, but honestly, they need help. Corn, peas, and steamed carrots are fine without help, but let’s be honest. Squash, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, etc . . . they need help. Potatoes are starchy veggies but not fattening and are good for you. Don’t forget to mix those healthy options in potatoes as well. Also, seek YouTube for healthy, tasty eats.
- Now, are you ready for the tricks of all tricks? Let your child to be a part of the cooking or preparation process. Remember this: Children are typically easily impressed and love fun and games. If they’re too tiny for your comfort to cook, let them rinse the broccoli. Let them dump the corn in the pan. Think of something that they can do that connects their hands to the task if you’re afraid of them stirring veggies in a pan. Let them drop the butter, sprinkle seasoning—you get the idea! Because when it’s done, put the end result all on them with an animated smile. “Oh my goodness, Chloe! Girrrl, you cooked our squash? Look at this. I cannot wait to try it.” Serve both and if child is reluctant, do your plate and act like it’s to die for. Insist that your child eats it. Praise the your child. Then when dinner time comes the next day, ask, “Chloe, you gonna make us some of your delicious squash again?” Imagine your child feeling a part of a healthy lifestyle instead of mom and/or dad’s fanatical victim of it. You’ve just empowered your child. Why wouldn’t they want elevated responsibility when cooking the veggies next time? You can even play restaurant and tell them that they own the veggie station! Get creative! You can’t lose with creativity and children!
- Dessert. Let’s please think about why it’s okay to give children a heap of sugar, let alone before bedtime. I’m crossing my arms at this. Try flavored triscuits with cream cheese, even plain! Delicious!!! Try any cracker with cream cheese. It is to die for. You won’t even crave junk food afterwards, I swear. Switch it up with Target brand strawberry cream cheese. The best! Try whipped cream and berries. Try a frozen banana, frozen strawberries, ice cubes, and coconut water smoothie. Even put it in a bowl and there’s your “ice cream.” Tortilla chips and salsa is a great dessert. Remember, we wanna stay away from sugar-based treats. Let the tongue live a little but not by things that move us away from veggies. Sugar will do that.
- Sugar equals diseases. There’s no cute stuff around that. You’re talking to an ex-sugar addict here. Come on. It’s time to treat sugar for what it is—a drug. Children get high then crash and you expect them to rise with ease in the morning!
- Contact me for more advice or ideas! Good luck!