Nutritional guidelines target 4–5 serves of vegetables per day for your children. Now if you are like the average family, your kids are more likely to be eating about 2–3 at best. So how can parents get closer to this target without hiding veggies in food?
The key to getting anyone to eat 5 serves of vegetables a day is to start early with 1–2 serves in the lunchbox or after school, and while you are at it, into your own lunch or snacks as well.
This means you only have three serves at dinner time which is quite achievable.
The other thing to remember, is that pulses and legumes count as a serve of vegetables, so baked beans are not only a great snack but also contribute towards your vegetable count.
Cutting up vegetables into easy-to-hold pieces to have with dip after school is also a great way to churn through a wide variety of vegetables. The key is having them ready the moment they get home from school instead of looking for biscuits.
Jen starts cooking her vegetables first before the main meal, and has them available as snacks if the kids are hungry before dinner. They fill a void and help get their vegetable count up.
On holidays, Jen often makes up an antipasto style platter first thing and when the kids come in hungry they just go to fridge and grab some snacks. They are often asking to eat because they are a bit bored, so this sorts out whether they are truly hungry.
Jen is not a great believer in ‘hiding’ vegetables in food. It is important that kids know that vegetables are vital in their diet and eat them consciously rather than believing they are eating a meat-only diet.
She likes to keep offering kids new veggies even if they reject them several times. She doesn’t make them eat it but they need to keep trying it every time it is offered at the family meal. The new veggies are in a bowl in the middle of the table so they are not overwhelmed by it on the plate or thinking they have to eat everything on the plate.
Her favourite way to jazz up vegetables is to cook them with a potato and add a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt, mash the potato through the vegetable. They always taste great.
Top tips to get your kids to eat more veggies
- Put some in the lunchbox – particularly those that are easy to pick up and not too messy, such as cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrot and capsicum. Tuna and corn fritters are also great for lunchboxes.
- Start cooking veggies in the afternoon and have them available when children are hungry before dinner.
- Cook vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower with potato and drizzle with oil. Mash the potato once cooked on the side of the pot.
- Serve vegetables with a dip as an after-school snack. Have them ready when kids get home from school.
- Offer new veggies in a bowl in the centre of the table with the evening meal rather than on their plate.
- Remember that pulses and legumes count as a serving of vegetables, so baked beans and others are a great source of a vegetable serve.
How do you get your children to eat more veggies?
There are loads of family-friendly recipes in the PlanBuyCook app, available from the App Store.