» Nine ways to get your kids to eat their veg­eta­bles

More chil­dren are eat­ing their veg – but how can fussy eaters be con­verted? LISA SAL­MON talks to an ex­pert to get some ad­vice

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

PAR­ENTS have tra­di­tion­ally bat­tled to get their chil­dren to eat veg­eta­bles, but it seems the ta­bles have turned, as in­creas­ing num­bers of chil­dren are eat­ing their greens, and plenty of other colours of veg.

Re­search by Birds Eye found al­most a third (32%) of par­ents of chil­dren aged be­tween four and nine years said their chil­dren would eat just about any type of veg­etable, with colour­ful car­rots, peas, sweet­corn and broc­coli be­ing the favourites.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr El­iz­a­beth Kil­bey, star of Chan­nel 4’s The Se­cret Life of 4, 5 and 6-Year-olds, says: “It’s no sur­prise chil­dren are be­com­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous with the veg­eta­bles they eat. The rise of flex­i­tar­ian or plant-based di­ets and lead­ing food in­flu­encers fo­cus­ing on veg-packed recipes are all signs that healthy eat­ing has be­come a huge part of pop­u­lar cul­ture.

“Chil­dren learn through ob­ser­va­tion and are heav­ily in­flu­enced by what they see adults around them do­ing. If par­ents have a var­ied diet and an ad­ven­tur­ous ap­proach to food, then it’s likely to rub off on their chil­dren, so it’s vi­tal that par­ents aim to add dif­fer­ent coloured veg­eta­bles to the plates of the whole fam­ily.”

The re­search also found chil­dren

are more likely to try new food when they’re at school, nurs­ery, or at a friend’s house, sug­gest­ing they might be more open to ex­per­i­ment­ing with food when away from home. To test this the­ory, and in cel­e­bra­tion of their Eat in Full Colour cam­paign, Birds Eye opened a unique chil­dren-only pop-up restau­rant, First Plates, aimed at en­cour­ag­ing less ad­ven­tur­ous eaters to try a rainbow of veg­etable dishes.

As part of the cam­paign, here Dr Kil­bey sug­gests ways to en­cour­age chil­dren to eat more veg:

VA­RI­ETY IS KEY

THE tex­ture of veg­eta­bles can some­times be an is­sue for chil­dren. If they don’t like the tex­ture of one veg­etable, they tend to lump all veg­eta­bles into the same cat­e­gory by as­sum­ing they won’t like them all. En­cour­age them to try dif­fer­ent op­tions, and also re­mind them they can’t be sure they don’t like some­thing un­til they’ve tried it.

MIX UP YOUR EAT­ING EN­VI­RON­MENT

CHIL­DREN are strongly in­flu­enced by the en­vi­ron­ment and will of­ten not want to stand out or be left out. So if their friends at nurs­ery are eat­ing some­thing new, they may be more likely to try it. Hav­ing a chat with nurs­ery staff or with other par­ents can be a great way to get chil­dren to try new veg­eta­bles.

CON­SIDER COLOUR

CHIL­DREN are strongly in­flu­enced by the look and smell of food and will make a de­ci­sion on whether they like some­thing just from how it looks, whereas adults want to know how it tastes.

This means chil­dren may as­so­ci­ate cer­tain coloured foods with tastes they don’t like. Serv­ing chil­dren colours of veg­eta­bles that

are fa­mil­iar to them or they as­so­ci­ate with foods they like could be easy wins. For ex­am­ple, if chil­dren like sweet potato, try of­fer­ing it with other or­ange­coloured veg like but­ter­nut squash.

MAKE FOOD FUN

IT’S an old adage that chil­dren shouldn’t play with their food – but maybe they should. By re­lax­ing the rules and al­low­ing chil­dren to be messy at meal­times, you’ll find food be­comes more ap­peal­ing to them and they’ll be more likely to eat it.

DON’T PANIC

ONE of the most im­por­tant tips I can give to par­ents is not to get stressed or let it im­pact on your opin­ion of your­self as a par­ent. It’s very com­mon for chil­dren to not be very keen on veg­eta­bles, or to only have a small reper­toire of veg­eta­bles they eat, but give it some time, cre­ativ­ity and perseveran­ce and most chil­dren will in­clude a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent veg­eta­bles.

LET CHIL­DREN EX­PLORE THEIR FOOD

CHIL­DREN are nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous. So, when look­ing to in­tro­duce your child to a new veg­etable, give them the op­por­tu­nity to give in to this nat­u­ral in­stinct by re­lax­ing the fo­cus on eat­ing it straight away and leave them to ex­plore it.

Whether they touch it, smell it, lick it or put it against their cheek or lips, this process is a vi­tal part of chil­dren get­ting fa­mil­iar with a food be­fore they ac­tu­ally eat it.

GET THEM IN THE KITCHEN

BY get­ting your chil­dren to give you a hand in the kitchen, you can not only teach them valu­able cook­ery skills but also a les­son in healthy eat­ing.

Your lit­tle ones are also far more likely to try new veg­eta­bles if they’ve been in­volved in the prepa­ra­tion.

You could try boil­ing some frozen veg­eta­bles with chicken stock and then let it cool to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore hand­ing over to your lit­tle one to blitz with a stick blender for a warm­ing soup.

KEEP IT FA­MIL­IAR

CHIL­DREN of­ten won’t eat a new veg­etable in iso­la­tion but more of­ten than not, they’ll give it a try if it’s mixed with other fa­mil­iar foods they en­joy. So al­ways in­tro­duce small amounts of new food along­side some of their favourites.

Try serv­ing cubes of roasted sweet potato among white potato or adding frozen peas or veg­eta­bles into their favourite risotto, pasta or stir-fry to add ex­tra good­ness.

THE SAME BUT DIF­FER­ENT

I WOULD en­cour­age par­ents not to be­come dis­heart­ened when their child re­fuses to try a cer­tain veg­etable, in­stead, try and cook it in a dif­fer­ent way.

One of my favourite tips is to boil car­rots, add a lit­tle cream and some cumin and blend it to make a puree. It’s also worth en­sur­ing you’re cook­ing your veg­eta­bles in the best way. Proper cook­ing meth­ods en­sure you get the most de­li­cious taste as well as more health ben­e­fits – for ex­am­ple, cook­ing frozen veg in the mi­crowave pre­serves a lot more of the good­ness of the veg com­pared to boil­ing them in water.

Dr El­iz­a­beth Kil­bey

If your chil­dren are picky about veg, you could try in­tro­duc­ing them in other ways. For ex­am­ple mak­ing car­rot mash with a lit­tle cream, top, or let­ting chil­dren blitz veg­eta­bles into a hearty soup, above

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