If it were up to our kids, they would eat peanut butter and jelly, McDonald's, and candy every second of every day. Actually, they probably wouldn't even eat meals, they would just snack on junk all day long. They want chips and cookies and sugary drinks and ice cream. Part of me gets it, but most of me knows I have to teach them to eat healthy every day.
Every night during the week we eat plant based meals in our house and our kids eat them too. I refuse to make separate meals for everyone. So how do we get our kids to eat LOTS of vegetables every night you ask? Possibly with torture tactics? Hahahaha! You'd think we'd have to but no! We finally decided to start thinking like kids (it wasn't too difficult for us) and we get them to eat healthy dinners every night. Let's be real, some nights are easier than others. Here are our tricks that the kids fall for most nights. We're going to save the best for last.
Involve Them in the Process
We have a backyard garden every year and we involve our kids in the entire process. That usually means that they spend only a few minutes on any given garden task, but that's OK because we want to keep their excitement alive. When they say they want to "help", we always say yes and we know that their "help" will only be short lived. But nevertheless, they help with everything from planning and selecting seed varieties, to digging and worm hunting, to planting seeds, picking weeds, killing bugs and harvesting.
Because they help us throughout the whole process, they feel like they have contributed to the garden and are willing to try something that we grew. So when I'm serving dinner I always mention each vegetable that came from our garden because that makes them excited to try it. And because they are willing to try new things that we've grown, they actually eat a large variety of things. For example one of our 4 year old's favorite vegetables is steamed Swiss chard. She loves any steamed leaves, so she even loves spinach and kale. I sprinkle a little salt on it to enhance the flavor and she keeps asking for more.
Allow Them To Have An Opinion
Our kids don't like every meal I make but like I said, I will NOT make separate meals for everyone. However...I do make accommodations. I make veggie stir fry with noodles often but my oldest daughter doesn't like that meal. I do know that she would rather eat crunchy vegetables over cooked vegetables though. So when I'm chopping vegetables I keep some non cooked veggies aside for her and put them on her plate like that with the noodles on the side. I think that is a reasonable accommodation since she's still eating exactly what we're eating, it's just not cooked and mixed together.
Switch Up the Dips
Let's be real, it's all about the dip! I try to mix up the things I give to the kids to dip their veggies in. We use healthy salad dressing options, or just olive oil and a little salt. Sometimes we dip our veggies in some sort of hummus and that comes in all different flavor varieties. I also give peanut butter as a dipper for apples and celery, or chocolate hummus to dip strawberries, grapes or pretzels in.
Sometimes the Dip is the Healthy Part
Because our kids think the dip is the best part, I try to make the dip the healthy part of the snack. I'll give them whole wheat chips or crackers served with tabbouleh, guacamole, hummus or even homemade pesto. Variety is the spice of life and that's what gets my kids to eat (or at least try) what's in front of them.
Sometimes I Have To Bribe Them...With A Twist
Yup, there I said it. You know you do it too. If they don't eat their meal (or at least most of it) then they won't get a special treat like a cookie for dessert. The trick is to make the "treat" something healthy as often as possible. Try something like fruit with chocolate hummus or frozen berries with almond milk and honey on top. Another good one is a smoothie with blended frozen bananas, peanut butter, spinach, unsweetened cocoa, and almond milk. They all taste great so it's not a hard sell.
I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST!!!!!! I don't know about your kids, but our kids laugh the most if anyone mentions the words butt or poop. It makes us laugh too. Although I admit that some vegetables are easier to get my kids to eat than others, there are some vegetables that need some serious mom tricks to get them to eat (Hello beets!). What if I told you that I can get my kids to crush a pile of steamed red beets in a matter of seconds? And no I didn't cover them in chocolate. That sounds disgusting anyways. Here is what I said to them… "Did you know that if you eat red beets that your poop will turn red?!" It's actually not even a lie, it's disgustingly true! My kids looked at me with wide open eyes and both of them ate every last one of them off their plate! Don't forget to remind them to check their poop for red! Hahahahaha! This will also work when you tell them about corn. I know I don't have to explain that one to you. How about asparagus? Hey kids, asparagus makes your pee smell REALLY weird!!! And magically the asparagus disappears off their plates with no complaints.
These are our 6 tricks that gets our kids eating lots of vegetables every day and we think your kids will fall for it too. Try it out and let us know which ones work best!