Saturday, August 28, 2010
Tips & Gadgets: How I Ended Pre-Dinner Whining and Got the Kids to Eat More Vegetables
Like most parents, I've joked, complained, and worried that my kids don't eat enough vegetables. And then I started paying more attention to how I offered them: as an afterthought, with low expectations, and not often enough.
I know I'm not the only one.
My approach here is hardly revolutionary. But it's simple and focuses on a fundamental point in the thriving current discussion about how we feed our children: Give them better choices, and they'll eat better.
My solution has all of us eating more vegetables. And it handles the inevitable whining that rises up just as I start to prepare dinner: "I'm huuuuungry! But I want something to eat now!"
The solution: Crudités. I've been trying to keep a reasonable selection of easy-to-eat vegetables on hand, for myself and the kids. At the first "I'm hungry!" I set out the container and they chow down. After a few days of this, the 3-year-old let out a "whoopee!" as the veggies came out. Seriously.
My boys haven't cared much for dip, so I've kept it simple -- just veggies, ma'am. Variety is important. Whatever they devour three days in a row then gets ignored for three weeks straight. We've had success with carrots, celery, edamame, jicama, and snap peas. Carrots are the most consistent hit, but even here variety helps: whole tiny carrots, baby carrots, carrots with bits of their green tops, purple carrots. You get the idea.
They nibble, I cook in relative peace, and when the boys sit down for dinner they've taken the edge off their hunger and are less likely to greet their plate with a complaint. And they've already eaten their vegetables!
When I fall off the wagon, I keep a fruit bowl stocked with small, organic apples and plums or other easy-to-eat fruit and they can help themselves. Not as good a choice as pre-dinner vegetables, but I'm fine with it. Bonus: The fruit bowl also resolves the post-dinner "I'm huuuuungry!" just after they've dumped their untouched meal in the sink.
For further reading, check out this article on nudging kids toward better choices at lunch. It's Not About Nutrition has lots of reasonable, easy-to-employ advice.