Children will eat vegetables when they believe they taste good. They’ve been quietly trained to not like them. Think about how food is normally presented. A meat or fish makes up half the plate. A starch, such as noodles or rice, makes up more than half of what space is left on the plate. Finally, there is a tiny portion of vegetables in a corner of the plate. If we start of presenting them as something to put on for color, we make vegetables look as if we don’t actually want them. It’s as if we make vegetables an afterthought — like parsley thrown on a plate for decoration.
Now, think about the way we communicate their taste. When was the last time you saw a commercial that advertised delicious, crispy vegetables? We have steak restaurants that present steaks, chicken, and fish platters running throughout the day. We see microwaveable snacks and quick meals that are starches, such as “Easy Mac” and Ramen noodles. When kids watch us eat, what do we tend to say? “Eat your vegetables first so you can eat what you really like last.” “If you hurry up and eat your vegetables, you’ll get them out of the way.” When you go back for seconds, do you get more vegetables?
There are several ways to get children to want to eat and enjoy vegetables. The most common suggestion is to keep serving vegetables to them. While repeated exposure is good for infants, is that going to make older children “like” them? If I kept serving you something you didn’t like, would you suddenly start liking it? No, but you might if I served it in different ways.
Let’s look at broccoli. Let’s say you don’t get much interest boiling it in water. After a couple times serving it this way, children still seem to want to push it to the side. The next time, you could try steaming it on the stove or broiling it in the oven for a different texture. Maybe you’ve been making it too mushy, and the children enjoy the crunch sound. Try a different recipe such as lemon garlic broccoli which involves lightly sautéing broccoli in a couple different seasonings. Try a healthy dip that allows the children to use their fingers while eating so they can engage all of their senses during mealtime. Fix a beef or chicken and broccoli stir fry.
Incorporate your broccoli into your lesson plan. Are you discussing the color green? Are you talking about trees and bushes? Are you discussing the letter “b”? Maybe you’re talking about families and can discuss how broccoli and cauliflower are in the same family of vegetables.
Vegetables can be fun, and getting children to eat vegetables doesn’t have to be a chore. We’ll discuss more ideas soon!
See ya next time!