Vegetables for Children
Fresh New Zealand grown vegetables – what a great start to life
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a love of vegetables. Once established, this love of vegetables will be with them for their lifetime. Nutritionally, you are setting them on the path of a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
Eating vegetables high in Vitamin C such as broccoli, capsicum, cauliflower and tomatoes with meat, chicken or fish helps the body to absorb up to four times more iron.
Establishing any habit takes effort
Children often take time to like vegetables; they are more likely to enjoy them when their family also eats and enjoys a variety of vegetables as a part of their daily lifestyle.
Eating vegetables needs to be ‘normal’
Some parents expect children will dislike vegetables and reinforce that belief with comments, both negative and positive. Don’t call children ‘good’ or make a fuss because they are, or are not, eating vegetables.
Lead by example
Attitudes to vegetables are caught, rather than taught, so let your children see you eating and enjoying different vegetables.
Bright ideas with vegetables
Involve the children
Include your children in buying, preparing and cooking vegetables. A child may eat more cucumber if they are the ones doing the slicing. Growing vegetables can make children more interested in eating them.
Different tastes, different textures
Vegetables have many different tastes and textures and children may not like every type, so give your child many different vegetables to try. Tastes change over time so keep trying.
Go with the flow
Don’t worry if your children aren’t eating enough, or any vegetables. Continue to offer vegetables regularly and show that you enjoy eating them. Have fun at mealtimes – happy relaxed children are more receptive to new foods. If a vegetable is left, try that vegetable again another time.
Same food for all the family
Aim for children to eat the same food as the rest of the family. Even when a meal has ingredients that your children may not like, or has flavours that are strong or spicy, still give them a little. Remember, some children will need to try a new food 7–10 times before they will like it.
5 a day is an easy model that children can relate to
For good health it is essential to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day (or strive for five for under fives) and it is ideal if you can eat from each colour group. The daily recommendations are three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruits. A serving is about a handful and everyone uses their own hand so a child’s serving is much smaller than an adult’s
Keep things interesting
- Serve vegetables raw and/or cooked and present them in different ways or cut in new shapes.
- Offer a wide range and introduce new varieties – and reintroduce ones which have previously been rejected, maybe served in a different way.
- Tortillas and tacos are a fun way for children to eat vegetables – serve a selection of sliced cucumber or celery, grated carrots, tomato wedges, etc and let the children make their own.
- Try roasting capsicums, courgettes, beetroot and eggplant. Start with small amounts.
- Find a sauce that your children like and use the same sauce with other vegetables.
- Sometimes it is the texture that children either like or dislike. A chunky soup may get the thumbs down, but blended to a smooth consistency it may get a totally different response. Once a soup is found that children like, change the ingredients a little at a time.
Start with a known favourite
- Home baked potato wedges are a universal hit with children.
- Try kumara, parsnip, carrot or pumpkin wedges.
- Most children love mashed potato. Provide variety by adding small amounts of kumara, carrot, parsnip, swede and pumpkin to the potatoes.
- Be subtle and add finely chopped or grated carrots, beans, mushrooms, onions to curries, bolognaise, lasagna or nacho sauces – often children won’t realise there are vegetables in them.
The colour benefits
Eating vegetables and good health go hand in hand. Eating lots of vegetables is a way to have good health.
Vegetables contain nutrients, minerals and phytochemicals (fight-o- chemicals) the body needs to maintain good health. Research shows that people who eat vegetables have more protection against lifestyle diseases.
Many of the phytochemicals and other compounds that make vegetables such healthy foods also give them their colour – eat a wide range of different coloured vegetables every day.