Boost Your Child’s Veggie Intake: Proven Strategies

Learn research-backed strategies to encourage healthier eating habits in children from an early age, focusing on increasing vegetable intake.

As parents, one of our primary concerns is ensuring our children lead a healthy lifestyle. A crucial aspect of this is establishing good eating habits, which often involves encouraging our little ones to eat more vegetables. However, it can be quite a challenge to get children excited about these nutrient-packed goodies. However, recent research has shed light on effective strategies to help children develop a taste for vegetables. In this article, we will explore some valuable insights.

The Influence of Role Models

Children often imitate their parents’ and peer behaviours, and this extends to eating habits. When parents and siblings actively consume and display a positive attitude towards vegetables, they can influence their children’s preferences and attitudes towards these healthy foods. Make it a point to include vegetables in your own meals and demonstrate enthusiasm while eating them.

Introduce a Variety of Vegetables Early

Research indicates that repeated exposure to a wide range of vegetables during the transition to solid foods and throughout infancy can positively influence children’s acceptance and preference for these foods. Start offering small amounts of mashed, pureed, or steamed vegetables with soft textures. Gradually increase the variety and texture of vegetables. Consistent exposure helps familiarise children with vegetables, making them more receptive to them in the long run. Encourage your children to try new vegetables by incorporating them into familiar dishes or presenting them in creative and appealing ways.

Serve Larger Portions of Vegetables

A study of children’s eating habits at childcare centres found that serving a greater amount of vegetables actually increased consumption, without reducing the intake of other foods. Children still ate the same quantity of other items, they just ate more veggies! This is a win-win situation because your child is not only eating more vegetables but also more overall food. Incorporating this strategy may be challenging when considering food waste, but the uneaten portion can be served at a later meal or added to a smoothie, muffins, or frittata.

Keep Meals Positive

Creating a positive and enjoyable mealtime environment can significantly impact a child’s willingness to eat vegetables. Meals should be relaxed, without pressure or stress. Avoid using vegetables as a bargaining tool or forcing your child to finish their vegetables before leaving the table. Instead, engage in pleasant conversations, share laughter, and make mealtimes an enjoyable family experience. Regularly sit together as a family, as a consistent positive structure also promotes healthy eating habits. Minimise the use of technology and other distractions during meals.

Involve and Empower Kids Throughout the Process

Involving children in meal planning and preparation can increase their interest and engagement with vegetables. Get them involved in gardening, grocery shopping, picking out vegetables, and even assisting in the kitchen. This empowers children and gives them a sense of ownership over their food choices. Furthermore, involving them in cooking activities allows for valuable learning opportunities about the nutritional benefits of different vegetables.

Reinforcement and Rewards

Positive reinforcement and rewards can be effective strategies to encourage vegetable consumption. Praising your child’s efforts and acknowledging their willingness to try new vegetables can go a long way in building their confidence and interest. Consider implementing a non-food reward system, such as a sticker chart, where they can earn incentives for eating vegetables or trying new ones. However, it’s important to strike a balance and avoid excessive rewards that may overshadow the intrinsic motivation to eat healthily.

While getting children to eat more vegetables can be challenging, it is vital to nurture their overall health and well-being and develop healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives. By using the strategies mentioned above, such as being positive role models, exposing children to a variety of vegetables, creating a positive mealtime environment, involving them in the process, and using reinforcement and rewards, we can cultivate a love for vegetables that will benefit our children’s health and well-being in the long run.

References

Costa, A., & Oliveira, A (2023). Parental Feeding Practices and Children’s Eating Behaviours: An Overview of Their Complex Relationship. Healthcare (Basel), 11, 400. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11030400

Diktas, H. E., Roe, L. S., Keller, K. L., Sanchez, C. E., & Rolls, B. J. (2021). Promoting vegetable intake in preschool children: Independent and combined effects of portion size and flavor enhancement. Appetite, 164, 105250. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105250 

Holley, C.E., Farrow, C. & Haycraft, E. (2017). A Systematic Review of Methods for Increasing Vegetable Consumption in Early Childhood. Curr Nutr Rep, 6, 157–170. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-017-0202-1

Wyse, R., Wolfenden, L. & Bisquera, A. (2015). Characteristics of the home food environment that mediate immediate and sustained increases in child fruit and vegetable consumption: mediation analysis from the Healthy Habits cluster randomised controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 12, 118. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-015-0281-6

Share

Picture of Meet Rachel

Meet Rachel

Rachel is a university-qualified Clinical Nutritionist and the owner of Busy Families Nutrition. She is passionate about breaking through the challenges in our busy lives to provide you with strategies for ensuring you and your family eat healthy, nutritious and most importantly great tasting food day to day.

Get in touch

Have a question or want to know more? Feel free to email or send a message by filling out the form provided.