Did you know that World Vegetarian Day occurs every year in October?
I consider myself a “most-of-the-time” vegetarian. Because I’m not a fan of cooking or eating meat and fish, I’ve learned lots of ways to introduce vegetables to my little ones.
In honor of World Vegetarian Day, here are five ways to encourage your kiddos to love veggies:
#1 – Don’t Push
Trust me, this one is really important. I add small amounts of vegetables to the majority of my kids’ meals, but I don’t force them to eat anything. I learned early on that making my kids eat vegetables is a quick way to turn veggies (or any other food) into a punishment. It also makes other food into a treat.
I serve it all together. Sometimes they eat vegetables; sometimes they don’t. Either way, I don’t comment.
I know some people encourage a “try-it bite,” and I will occasionally ask my preschooler if he’d like to try something. But if he doesn’t want to, I move on. I also comment that he might not like it now but could in the future. I remind myself that there are certain foods I dislike; it’s ok for me, and it’s ok for children, too.
#2 – Dips
All kids love dip. It’s a fact. So, if I’m adding a new (or not loved) veggie to a meal, I add a dip. Some favorite dips at my house are tzatziki, hummus, balsamic vinegar, and pesto. I also add spices and herbs to greek yogurt, and my children will eat it with a spoon.
My preschooler loves to fill silicone muffin liners with different dips and eat it with pasta, veggies, or snacks. Do they sometimes eat more of the dip than the veggies? Yup, but (again) don’t push.
#3 – Add Veggies To Their Favorite Meals
I add veggies to almost every meal, including the toddler staples. For mac and cheese, I boil or blend in butternut squash, broccoli, or cauliflower. The options for adding vegetables to quesadillas are infinite: kale, spinach, bell peppers, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, basically anything! A DIY pizza night can empower your kids to try new toppings.
#4 – Model It For Them
I make sure my children see me making healthy choices. They see me eat salads and vegetables, and I talk to my older son about why I prioritize certain food. We talk about how food makes our bodies feel and why some food is more beneficial than other food.
Also, we spend time talking about balance and why too much of any food isn’t healthy for us. My hope is that this will instill a strong foundation for the future.
#5 – Include Them
Even though going grocery shopping is my favorite time to listen to a podcast and (slowly) walk down every aisle, I bring my children and have them choose produce to make. And it’s not for the faint of heart, but I often include them in the prepping and cooking. I do it because this makes them much more eager and excited to eat the food. This post has some super easy and healthy Fall Snacktivities you can do together.
It is exciting and empowering for them to be a part of the process and to eat something that they made.
If bringing your children to the grocery store isn’t appealing or possible, you can bring them closer to the source. If you have a green thumb, try a small garden. Or, bring them to a farmer’s market or a local farm, like Tanaka Farms.
Overall, it’s important to manage your expectations when giving children new food. Research shows we need to try things over ten times before getting used to it.
So, in honor of World Vegetarian Day, make it fun, put it on their plate, but don’t get frustrated or disappointed if they don’t love Brussels sprouts right away.