For those of us who remember hearing our parents chant “eat your veggies” at the dinner table, the prospect of getting our kids to eat the healthy stuff may seem like an inevitable parenting battle. But according to Michelle Davenport, PhD, RD, mom, and founder of soon-to-launch baby food startup Raised Real, it doesn’t have to be. To avoid the power struggle, she’s dishing eight easy tips to raise kids who love their veggies.
Make vegetables their first foods.
What babies eat now will determine what they’ll eat as adults. In the first year, baby brains are busy forming relationships with everything from words and people to food. That’s why babies who are raised on homemade baby food eat more fruits and vegetables while those who eat store-bought baby food eat more sweets later on.
Serve up the same food, differently.
The key to keeping things simple is to get everyone eating the same food served in different ways. Think about ingredients and recipes that can be broken down. For example, bok choy, carrots, barley, and ginger can be blended into baby food, chopped into finger food for toddlers, arranged in fun bowls for school-aged kids, and whipped into a more elevated recipe for parents.
Spice it up.
What’s more interesting than just sweet potato? Sweet potato with cinnamon. Introducing spices early on adds extra nutrition (cinnamon may protect from diabetes, for example) but also broadens their appreciation for different flavors. Before you know it, you’ll have kids who jump for joy at the sight of roasted thyme carrots and turmeric-dusted cauliflower.
Make it easy to choose vegetables.
Cafeterias everywhere, from Google to elementary schools, are now implementing food choice architecture, a fancy term by behavioral economists for nudging people to eat healthier. These tiny tweaks, like pairing a main vegetable entree with a less appetizing side dish or offering fruits and vegetables first during mealtime, make kids 2.5x more likely to eat their vegetables. And the best part? They’ll never even know.
Eat the rainbow.
Colorful food is not only more packed with nutrition but also more fun to look at. To make meals extra appetizing, think back to the color wheel from art class and pair foods with complementary colors—red with green, blue with orange. When in doubt, make rainbows.
Grow little green things.
Countless studies have shown one of the best places for kids to gain an appreciation for fruits and vegetables is in the garden. While it’s great to have a vegetable plot outdoors, you don’t need one. Indoor microgardens, like the InFarm Microgreen Growing Kit, are perfect for city dwellers.
It just takes one bite.
It just takes one bite to introduce your kid to a new vegetable, which you may have to introduce up to 20 times before they stop refusing. Forcing kids to finish their food creates an unnecessary power struggle and prevents them from learning self-control, a useful skill to have once they become adults walking past the bakery counter.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Kids love to mimic what their parents and older siblings do, and the same applies to eating vegetables. Get kids in the kitchen. Eat meals together to show them what healthy eating looks like and to create habits for social eating that will extend well into adulthood.