6 ways to get your kids to eat more vegetables

Before becoming a doctor, I was a mother of three small children. I started medical school when my kids were 5, 3, and 10 months old, which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the same year I started seeing gray hairs on my head. To survive (mine, not theirs), we had a few house rules: 1. Eat what you get, or you’ll have to wait to eat at the next meal. 2. You dirty a dish, you wash it. 3. “I’m your mom, not your short-lived cook.” We’ve had varying degrees of success following these rules, but these guidelines have made our transition to a plant-based diet much easier (which happened when my kids were 18, 16, and 13). You see, when your kids are raised to understand that everything on their plate is what they eat, it doesn’t take long before they learn that being picky and whiny is like going to bed hungry. Thanks to these rules, my children have learned to eat and enjoy a variety of foods. Combine being a mother with being a doctor, and you learn a thing or two about getting young people to eat their vegetables. So if you need strategies to get your kids to eat healthier foods, try these helpful tips.

1 Be healthy and discreet

Hiding greens in anything and everything is crucial for a parent, so if your kid loves smoothies, add a few kale or spinach leaves. It won’t change the flavor (and your kids will be healthier), so don’t feel guilty for not giving your offspring full disclosure of smoothie ingredients. Remember: we are in the 21st century. Instagram has made unicorn food a hot (and unhealthy) trend, and sometimes guerrilla tactics are necessary.

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2 Lead by example

Parents, I’m calling you! You have to stop saying “eat your vegetables” when your plate is devoid of greenery. Kids are smart and discerning, so if you want them to eat healthy, you’re going to have to start by setting the example. Yes you will have to eat your vegetables.

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3 Soak

It could be anything: hummus, nut butters, vegan salad dressings or salsa, which your kids can dip their fruits and vegetables into. They’ll love it, and you’ll find they’ll eat a lot more if you give them the dip option, because the only thing better than a carrot is a carrot with roasted red pepper dip.

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4 Get the kids involved

Last time I checked, there are no child labor laws stating that children cannot help cook, set the table, or do the dishes. Plus, my daily work as a doctor has taught me that kids are closer to the ground, which is one of the reasons they’re great for helping you plant a garden. With that in mind, go online to find the most beautiful fruits and vegetables and visit your local nursery to buy plants and/or seeds. So dig! If you don’t have room for a garden, you can always get your kids involved by choosing recipes together and taking your offspring to the grocery store. Ask them to compare two zucchini to see which one is ripe, or have them talk to the grower to help you choose the perfect bundle of kale. Whatever you choose, involving children in meal preparation will increase the likelihood of a lifelong love affair with healthy foods!

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5 Bribes bring bad vibes

Parents, repeat after me: Corruption doesn’t work! Rather than encouraging children to expand their palates, corruption only reinforces the whimpers and tantrums that occur when they want ice cream for dinner. If you tell a child that they can have ice cream after eating their vegetables, your child will remember this bargaining tool and use it to their advantage. So, instead of bribing, remind your children that they will eat what is on their plate or wait for the next meal. Relax, they’ll be fine.

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6 Tell silly vegetable jokes

When dealing with children, one thing I know to be true is that humor always works. Because of this, I’ve learned that nothing makes a child laugh like silly vegetable jokes. For example, my children loved: “What vegetables do sailors hate? Leeks.” Then there’s my favorite: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Salad.” “Lettuce who?” “Let us in and you’ll know.”

For more kid-friendly vegan tips, read:
5 tips for raising vegan kids
Picky eater? Try These 5 Simple Vegan School Meals
10 easy-to-pack vegan school lunches

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