A little coaxing, a little creativity, and a few tricks to hoodwink your kids into eating their greens.
1. Give creative names
Giving trendy and unusual names to vegetable preparations works well for kids. Younger kids enjoy building connections with their favourite characters or stories, for instance, Jack and the Rajma beanstalk may be a great way to get junior to eat his red beans.
2. Be a role model
Here is your chance to be one! Kids do what they see happening around them. If you are in the habit of munching on carrot or cucumber sticks every time you are hungry, the kids will follow suit. Your attitude and approach to food is watched closely and followed.
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3. Get them involved
Right from shopping to cooking and serving, get the kids involved in different activities. For instance, take the kids along when you go grocery shopping. When they get involved in picking and choosing the veggies, they are more inclined to eat them.
4. Encourage eating together
Eating along with other children can help them eat better. Try the veggies that you wish to introduce to your child in this peer setting. When other children display an interest in it, you will notice how it works positively.
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5. Create interesting shapes
Carrots and tomatoes served as curls, cucumber as little wands, okra as little stars in the sky, all of this generates interest in what’s on the plate.
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6. Preserve the colours
Don’t overcook the veggies as this robs them of their natural colour. Brightly coloured veggies are appealing and may attract a child. Play a game of how a carrot crumbles with a crunch, or how to bite off a beet and then colour your lips with it. Overcooking also destroys nutrients and turns them mushy, that most children dislike.
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7. Make a difference
Every household has some standard ways of preparing veggies. The monotony of this usually takes a toll. Try different accompanying ingredients for the same veggie and cook it using a different process to get a different texture. Make spinach chips with sesame seeds instead of the usual saag or palak paneer.
8. Keep food handy
No adult, leave alone a kid, will eat veggies if they have to wash it, peel it and then eat it! Make it a routine to keep some seasonal veggies in the refrigerator that are easily accessible and ready to eat. Also make fresh dips and chutneys with yogurt, mint and other fresh herbs. When the kids are hungry, offer this as the first choice. Alternately, it should be placed strategically so that it is most visible.
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9. Grow your food
With vertical living spaces, it is not really possible to grow veggies but growing some herbs in pots can do the trick. Plant mint or basil in pots and allow the kids to nurture the plants. Let them pluck a few leaves to add to the meal.
10. Stay persistent
Changing the child’s attitude and behavior towards food is not a one-time effort. It is a way of life. Continue to serve veggies in plenty as it paves the way to better health. If your child repeatedly rejects them even after you have tried all reasonable means, you should add veggies to muffins, cupcakes, pancakes, rotis, chutneys, dips and sandwich spreads.
Neelanjana Singh is a nutritionist and president of the Delhi Chapter of the Indian Dietetics Association.
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