Goose just wrote an article for Motherly, a brand new website for modern mothers. It’s all about getting kids to their veggies without the stress. And to pair up the tips with practical recipes, here are a few our little ones love and request. No sneaking veggies required—because they deserve to be prepared deliciously and take center stage on our plates.
Without further ado, Your Kid Can Eat Kale:
Children and vegetables go together like, well, children and vegetables. It’s probably the single most stressful parenting issue besides bedtime routine, and at least with sleep you know that eventually they’ll pass out. But that broccoli leftover on their plate? They will stare at that for all eternity if they have to.
While I don’t think there’s a magic formula for getting your kids to eat their veggies, these practical steps have helped my little gremlins eat their greens. Granted, there will be foods they just don’t like. (But that’s all of us, right? Fennel? I’ll pass.) One won’t touch a tomato if you paid him in Legos and the other thinks roasted zucchini is “disss-gusting” (it’s a texture thing, apparently). But they eat almost every other vegetable under the sun and without bribes. My boys have actually fought over the last Brussels sprout and demanded that arugula salad be served at most dinners.
1) Limit Snacks — We’ve all become pretty mindless with snacking. We take a few bags of Goldfish crackers to the park because, you know, little Simon may need an energy boost for the sandbox. If kids are grazing throughout the day, then meal times are actually snack times too. They won’t eat what’s on their plate because they were never hungry to begin with. Plain and simple: hungry kids eat.
2) Don’t Do Juice — I used to buy juice when my boys were toddlers and they’d down sippy cups throughout the entire day. That stuff’s full of sugar and its sweetness will completely overpower that asparagus they’re not having for dinner. But if your child drinks water when they are thirsty, it will cleanse their palate and allow them to taste the subtle sweetness in a beet or roasted cauliflower. If he or she’s getting juice while eating any of those things, it won’t taste good at all. Plus, imagine all the money (and plastic) you’ll save by only serving H2O.
3) Lead by Example/Your Kids are Smart — If you’re not making an effort to cook more vegetables and stock your pantry with healthier options, kids notice. If you’re not a fan of wholesome food, they won’t join the club either.
4) Make the Farmers’ Market a Habit — Dropping some knowledge on how our produce grows and then allowing our kiddos to actually pick it themselves is probably the closest to a magic formula for getting them to eat and appreciate their veggies. An added bonus is that it teaches patience and gratitude. The supermarket has allowed us to purchase anything regardless of its growing season, and while it’s convenient to buy strawberries in the dead of winter, they pale in comparison to buying juicy local ones in late spring. It’s a great opportunity to explain these cycles to our children and introduce them to the hands that toiled for months to grow what they will soon eat for dinner. Each season brings the opportunity to make memories with our children, like sipping on hot apple cider in the fall.
5) Let Them Help — This requires extra patience and planning, but it’s so worth it. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but it should be routine. This is especially awesome if you’re trying to introduce a new vegetable or you’re introducing it for the seventh time. Talk about the texture, color, or just make up a a silly story about the veggie. Just engage them by letting them touch and smell and taste. They can wash the veggies, cut them, stir them, whatever. However they’re involved, when it comes down to actually eating, they’ll be more inclined to try it out since they helped make it.
6) Make Dinner (or Even Breakfast) a Priority — Make mealtime a really important part of the day — cook simple, no-fuss meals and sit and eat them together. Real food—no apple products unless it’s an actual apple. Allow time for giggles and discussions about the day. It’s the perfect time to connect while disconnecting from everything else.
7) Don’t Force — So you tried the six other steps and there she is, making her signature pirate face at the spinach salad. It happens, and it will happen again, but we promise it will happen less and less. Keep on trying out different ways of preparing it and just don’t make a big deal about it when it does happen. Instead, offer another healthy (but easy) option. Carrots and hummus, anyone?