Nollywood actress and mother of three, Omoni Oboli has shared a new post on her blog.
In the new post titled “How to Make Kids Eat Their Vegetables” she shares 10 tips that can help mothers convince their growing kids to eat healthier.
See her 10 tips below.
- Practice what you preach!
The first thing however is to lead by example! The first thing my kids ask when you present them with any new meal is, ‘Is it healthy’? If you say it is, they will at least try it. I have over the years, taught them by my own eating habits, what is healthy, and what isn’t. By far the best determinant of a child’s eating behavior is the eating patterns of their parents. If vegetables and healthy foods are always an afterthought in your home, you can’t expect your kids to take to them. The most important thing is to set a good example. Your actions speak louder than words. Plus you need your vegetables too!
- Make food fun
Relating healthy food to fun things the child already loves and turning it into a game is a great way to get them to eat their veggies. They also love playing make believe. I remember once we went out to eat with my cousin and her boys. One of her kids didn’t want to eat his veggies because he doesn’t like veggies. My husband got him to eat it by saying the veggies were his Goliath and he needed to slay his Goliath. We made it fun by cheering him on with every mouthful and hailing him for slaying his Goliath! He ended up eating the whole thing. We cannot overemphasize the need to make food and meal times fun!
- Get them involved
Like we said before, children are more interested in a meal if they help with its preparation. Letting them clean carrots, mix the dressing, wash the green vegetables and set the table. It gives them a sense of pride and makes them more enthusiastic and cooperative at meal time. Even taking them to the store or the market and letting them choose what tomatoes or vegetables to buy helps as well.
- Enforce the “one mouthful rule”
Research consistently shows that children who have rejected a particular food must be exposed to it at least 21 times before concluding that they don’t like it. Many parents have had success with the “one mouthful rule,” requiring the child to try at least one solid mouthful of a rejected food whenever it is served. After enough exposures the food will be more familiar to the child and usually they begin to rate it more favorably. It works! My boys today eat foods they never liked before.
- Don’t force them to eat it all
One mouthful is different from finishing your plate. One of the biggest misconceptions among parents is that forcing their kids to eat food they don’t like will get them to change. However, fighting and punishments create a bad meal time experience, and the child will learn to associate food with the bad feelings. Bad food experiences have the opposite effect and actually increase lack of interest in food.
- Reward good behavior
On the other side of the coin, creating positive food experiences can decrease picky eating tendencies. Research has shown that rewarding a child for trying one bite of a rejected food with fun things or fun times make it easier for them to try the food. They are also more likely to rate the food positively in the future.
- Offer diverse food colors
One thing you have working in your favor is that children like colorful foods. You can expose them to more colors by adding more vegetables to their plates.
- Arrange food in patterns on the plate
Another reason to cook different vegetables separately is that children love when their food is designed into patterns on their plate. Unlike adults, who prefer foods clumped near each other in the center of the plate, kids like their food separated into piles around the perimeter. If you shape it into a heart or smiley face, they’ll like it even more. This is another way to make food fun.
- Use additional flavours
There’s nothing wrong with introducing additional flavors to vegetables to make them tastier to children. For a picky child, the most important thing is that he gets comfortable and familiar with the rejected food. If that means serving it along with something you know he’ll enjoy. That’s fine! I encourage you to use ingredients that are as close to real food (minimally processed without strange chemicals) as possible. Children can handle a few extra calories, especially if it helps them learn to enjoy spinach. When I give my boys smoothies, I add a lot more bananas and just a handful of spinach. Sometimes, I add some homemade yoghurt to their fruit and vegetable smoothies. Made from Nunu milk of course! (Leave a comment if you want my homemade yoghurt recipe)
- Keep at it
Some children will be more difficult than others, and will require more effort and patience. It’s important to realize, however, that the habits they develop at a young age will remain with them long into adulthood. For your sake and theirs, it is worth solving picky eating problems as soon as possible. Continue to set a good example, create fun, positive experiences around food, let them help in the kitchen, enforce the one mouthful rule and do anything else you can to keep exposing them, in a pleasant way, to the healthy foods they reject. Your persistence will eventually pay off! Whatever you do, don’t give up because our kids need to Grow Every day!
Photo Credit: Instagram – @omonioboli