Thursday, August 19, 2010

5+ a Day - help your kids eat their veggies!

Alex at his chubbiest ever!
My Secret 
Serve chocolate dipping sauce!

But Seriously....
I've posted some vegan dinners that I serve to my family.  But we all know that in today's environment of ample and (on average) unhealthy food, it can be a real chore to do your duty and get fresh fruits and vegetables that last step off their plates and into their tummies.

My children are no angels at my table but they do eat a pretty decent share of the good stuff.  Apart from sheer luck, it's possible that the following helped:  

1.  Start them young
My children were both exclusively breastfed until well after 6 months, and then I started with fruits like avocado and banana as well as kumara - all lovely and sweet!  I like my broccoli and cauliflower and courgettes and carrots cooked pretty soft (and sweet), so it wasn't hard to encourage an adventurous table-tyke to steal from my plate.

As vegans, we moved from baby fruit foods to baby grain foods, and they never had the baby foods with the strong and addictive tastes of cheese, milk, or meat.   This probably made a difference.

Several mums I know use baby-led weaning for introducing solids, and don't use mashed foods at all.  It's certainly easier for young children to eat veggies and fruits in this process than fibrous meats. 
2.  Walk your talk (well, eat it)
I've been vegan all their lives so they see me with a plateful on a regular basis.  There is no better teacher than example.

You don't have to be a vegan to set a good veggie example.  But you do have to eat them, and be seen eating and enjoying them. 

3.  Veggies first!
Starches, especially refined starches, satisfy your sweet tooth as well as being extremely filling.  Meats, cheeses, and other rich savouries overwhelm your taste buds.

Kids and grownups alike - eat a nice pile of veggies as the starter to your meal 
  1. You are hungrier
  2. They will taste better
  3. You will eat more veggies
  4. (Optional benefit) You will eat less of the rest of the meal
Expect no joy from reluctant foragers by offering the fronds of health after a big plate of chips and tomato sauce.  While my kids don't eat meat or cheese, they do love the meat substitutes that we have at some meals.  But they don't get them unless the veggies go in first.
  • One popular concern is that if you feed children too much fibre, they may not get enough calories.  If you feel your child is now eating too many vegetables and is therefore wasting away :-) please use your own judgement.  The opposite problem is way more common.
Mine eat too much starch, and now more refined starches than when younger.  Alex was more adventurous in his tastes when younger and Nadia is copying him in everything.

My kids' favourite veggies
For what it's worth...both of my kids vary quite a bit in their tastes so yours will too.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower cooked nice and soft
  • Nadia has joined Alex in the cucumber fan club
  • Alex eats the part of the tomato with not one seed please.  Nadia eats the seeds.  With a bit of "look over there" we can get through quite a bit.
  • Alex will eat raw carrot sticks under duress, but heaps shredded carrot and lettuce on wraps.  Nadia's also keen on shredded carrot
  • Black olives
  • Gherkins
  • Alex wishes corn on the cob grew year round.  Me too.
The usual kid preparation tricks apply: making it fun with shapes or dips can go a long way. 

Also check out:
And if you haven't succeeded on the veggie front, you can score some points with fruits:
  • apples, bananas, mandarins, kiwifruit, avocado...
  • dentists don't recommend dried fruits but they do pack well in lunches
Go forth and vegetate!  You won't regret it...


  1. I have found most success in dicing the veggies really small and incorporating them in sauces etc. Bigger pieces don't do so well, even though she has no trouble eating other big pieces... In retrospect I wish we did the baby-led weaning instead of mashed foods. I bf'd exclusively for 6 months though. Funny enough, she likes to eat apples and tomatoes whole, biting into them. If I cut them to smaller pieces she doesn't want them. I guess the whole ones are more fun. I also give her 100% fruit and berry smoothies and fruit juice to drink (she has constipation issues and needs to drink lots of fluids with her fiber!) Fiber is not a problem as she loves healthy muesli and bread and wholemeal cookies.
    She has been pretty good at taking healthy fatty acid oil by the spoonful. If we just remember to give it to her.. A recent discovery for her was green drinks - I mix mine with apple juice, aloe vera, chlorella, wheat grass and spirulina. It comes out dark green. She wanted to try it one time and loved it! She will drink half a cup or more at one go, nearly every day. Just today I had to make myself a new drink as she drank most of mine! I know it takes some effort, and making meals that I know aren't her favorites, to slowly train her to eat all kinds of foods. I don't want to raise a picky eater. When I see kids who survive on a diet of french fries and sausage I just wonder if they will suffer the consequences sometime in later in life..

  2. Sometimes they like to eat it just like a grownup, don't they? Alex (and often Nadia as well) won't eat my sauces so I can't be sure of getting lots of veggies in that way anymore.

    Mine both take unsulphered blackstrap molasses by the spoonful which is nice.

  3. Oh, I have molasses.. could try to get her to take that sometimes too. We also use mascobado raw sugar and rose salt and I try to limit the white flour to minimum, using spelt and whole meal flours.. But then I also want to be relaxed enough not to turn the whole health thing against myself later on..