Getting Kids to Eat Their Greens: 4 Tried & Tested Tips

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A child is born with a sterile gut and spends the first years of his life building his immune system. In comparison to an adult, a child is more susceptible to falling sick in his early years as the body develops anti-bodies. Remember, a healthy child is not one who doesn’t ever fall sick. A healthy child is one who is more resistant to falling sick, doesn’t fall as sick, or recovers faster.

Having a good, balanced diet with lots of greens will help children weather the sickness storm. And while I may be lucky that my own children love their vegetables and fruits, I know that a lot of parents out there find it really hard to sneak that spinach in their child’s meal. So here are some tips on nurturing a love for vegetables and fruits.

Start as early as possible

A study by Julie Mennella – published in Pediatrics journal – found that what a woman eats during pregnancy may also shape baby’s food preferences later in life. As early as 21 weeks of conception, a fetus can taste the food a mom has taken via the amniotic fluids. Mennella’s team found that there wasn’t a flavour in food that doesn’t pass through the amniotic fluids. Since moms tend to feed their children what they eat themselves, it is nature’s way of introducing babies to the foods and flavours that they are likely to encounter in their family and their culture.

So, if you want your child to love greens and fruits, bump up your greens intake during pregnancy.

Be a good role model

University of Florida taste researcher Linda Bartoshuk says babies are born with very few hard and fast taste preferences. Hence, a child’s preference for food can be nurtured.

A child growing up in a family who eats plenty of greens has more access to greens, finds it second nature and will naturally eat more greens.

It’s important to be mindful about the adult’s personal response to greens. If one parent wrinkles his nose at eating vegetables, there’s a higher chance the child would follow suit.

Be open about it

Explain to your children why certain vegetables or fruits are good for them. Tell them what are the vitamins present and what that particular vitamin is good for.

Get creative about offering vegetables and fruits

A picky eater’s palette and attitude can be changed. First of all, understand that children are more sensitive about textures and visuals.

Vegetables are fibrous and may take longer to chew, making it a big deterrent for many children and they give up quickly. This is why I like to dice up my vegetables into bite sizes, and incorporating vegetable and fruits into cakes, waffles, cookies, smoothies, popsicles, and omelette.

Juicing is the most efficient and popular way to introduce plenty of vegetables and fruits to your child. Try juicing continuously for a week and observe your child becoming more receptive to eating greens and fruits directly.

Know your child’s favourite colours to increase the chance of success. My first child dislikes green and rejects green-coloured juice. I can still include wheat grass, or spinach or broccoli, but I have to be mindful of the proportion so that final colour is something she likes.

Some ideas

Fruit cocktail: Dice your fruits to bite size and deliver it in a fun ice cream cup. Add a layer of juice (passionfruit natural juice is my favourite) for extra flavour.

Carrot cake: Made with organic shredded carrot, sultanas, black sesame seeds, golden flaxseeds and chia seeds.

Vegetable risotto: Uses asparagus, lentils, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, onions and Portobello mushrooms. Served with pan-fried paprika lemon sole.

Being a mom and a foodie myself, I love cooking for my children and keeping them healthy. Instilling a good attitude to eating greens keeps their inherent immune system strong. When they are unwell, it gives me a tool to help them fight the virus or recover faster.

If you are interested to learn more about using nutrition to build your child’s immune system, do attend my talk ‘A Complete Health Program for Your Child between 0-12 years old’. More info is available here.

Daisy is a mother of two and Founder of Trinity Kids Malaysia. A dedicated practitioner in early childhood education, she has been featured on BFM, The Edge, NTV7, The Star, BabyTalk magazine and given talks on related topics. As a certified Dr Sears Health Coach in children/family nutrition and ante-natal wellness, Daisy actively promotes a wholesome and non-processed diet in Malaysia’s schools. An avid reader and writer from a young age, she now writes about topics in early childhood education, child development and nutrition.

Image Credit: national.deseretnews.com.

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