Raising Children Who Love Vegetables

Did your mouth just drop open, and the words “no way” come spilling out? Did you think, “she’s nuts, it’s not possible”?

Well, maybe I’m jinxing myself, but my 4 year old, Emerson, doesn’t just eat his vegetables, he asks for them.

This picture I took was just from the other day when asked what he wanted for lunch he responded with “dry salad.”

I even challenged him a little with, “not Mac n cheese?” (Mainly because I already had some of that made and saved in the fridge, so it would’ve been very easy to heat it up for his lunch)

“No. Just dry salad.” I know. He’s a weirdo. I mean who eats their salad dry? Ew..

One of Emerson’s favorite snacks are baby tomatoes, or celery and peanut butter, baby carrots or trees (broccoli). At dinner he eats asparagus, Brussels sprouts, EGG PLANT. I mean, this kid literally eats it all, and LIKES it.

So how in the world did this happen??

My husband and I started from the moment we introduced him to solid foods. Yup. When he was 5 months old, we made sure we set his taste buds up for success, and we’ve continued to holdfast to these 7 rules.

1) Do not introduce baby to fruits too soon.

Fruits are naturally sweet, which is why it’s so easy to get kids to eat them. But be careful when it comes time to introduce your infant to solid foods, not to introduce fruits too quickly.

With Emerson, we were careful to introduce the less sweet things first. Green beans, squash, avocado (which he still loves today), carrots.

We saved bananas, apples, peas, and sweet potatoes until a little later, when he’d developed a taste for the above foods first. And even then, we made sure he ate the healthier options first, before he could have the sweet stuff.

2) Offer a variety of healthy foods, not just the same veggies over and over again.

The reason I know Emerson will eat egg plant is because I cook it and serve it to him! We do more than just green beans and broccoli on rotation.

3) All Adults in the house, should also eat a variety of vegetables

You know the saying “monkey see, monkey do”? I promise I’m not calling your kid a monkey, BUT it’s true. They will copy what you do. If dad doesn’t eat his broccoli, why do I have to?

I feel for you, mamas out there with picky husbands. I’m blessed with a husband who eats whatever I make. Even if he doesn’t like it! Granted, he also knows that I’m feisty, so if he’s not going to eat it, I won’t be cooking the next night at all. Seriously. I told you, I’m feisty.

4) Don’t reward with sweets

This is one we are ALL guilty of, even me!! It’s so easy to tell your child, if you eat all your broccoli, I’ll give you some ice cream when you’re done.

Do. Not. Do. This.

What happens when we do this, is we teach our kids that the ice cream is good. Veggies are bad. You suffer through this, you will be rewarded with that. But vegetables aren’t bad; they are good! Our bodies LOVE them, NEED them.

Now that doesn’t mean you should never give your kids a sweet treat occasionally, but don’t reward them with junk for eating what’s good for them.

6) Let your kids in the kitchen

From the time Emerson could stand, I let him in the kitchen with me to help. From snapping peas, to baking bread, he LOVES to be a part of whatever it is I’m doing.

We also made it a point to incorporate “do it yourself” meals. Like, build your own pizza or nachos night.

By letting kids be a part of the preparation of a meal, it empowers them and gives them a sense of pride for food that’s on their plate, making them more likely to actually EAT it.

6) Do not cover up or “hide” food

While Emerson’s tastes were developing, we were careful not to try to hide his vegetables in other foods. We never covered broccoli in cheese, or carrots in ranch dressing. We wanted him to be familiar with the taste of his veggies, not just the taste of the sauces.

We also never attempted to “hide” his veggies in brownies or mashed potatoes.. he learned to like everything for what it actually was.

Even things like chicken nuggets, we never gave him dipping sauce. In fact, Emerson didn’t know what ketchup was until he went to preschool, and his classmates were all dipping their nuggets in ketchup, so, of course, he wanted some.

Let your kids become familiar with their food, not just their covers.

7) Do NOT make special meals

Listen. This is tempting. Especially when you’re afraid of your child going hungry. But listen, your two year old will not starve. I promise.

If they don’t want to eat what you make them, don’t make them anything else. This is a test of wills. It’s not that your child actually DISLIKES the food you made, they want to see if you’ll make them something else instead.

You have the power, momma. Not them. Do not do it.

I realize that every parent and every kid is different. The above advice is what has worked for me, my family, and my kids. I hope it works for yours as well 🙂 

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