“My son loves to complain about food.”
That is what a mom told me during consultation with me a few weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised because I hear this sentiment all the time.
Plus, my own son spent years whining about dinner, especially vegetables. I panicked and twisted myself into a pretzel every night trying to get him to try them.
It was incredibly stressful, and I hated every minute of it.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and now, my son is 9 years old and sincerely loves many vegetables (and herbs).
Recently, he was feeling particularly adventurous and ordered both basil AND cilantro on his pizza. It didn’t bother him when he realized the combination didn’t work. He simply picked off the cilantro and kept the basil.
I’m still in awe how he used to throw a fit when he saw something green, and now he asks me to pass the veggies.
I want to give you a short cut by sharing what I’ve learned that works so you don’t have to go through years of struggle like I did.
The tools are very doable, will reduce your stress, and will set up your child to start trying those veggies in no time.
Here are 3 tools to teach your kids to love vegetables.
1. Serve vegetables that YOU like.
Children learn to eat by watching their parents eat.
This means that at a most primal level, children are looking to us to decide what is good and safe to eat. They want to see their parents eat it first. And, they want to know that their parents are really enjoying it.
And, as we all know, our kids can tell when we’re faking it.
Once they watch us enjoying it for a long time, they might put that food on their plate, but not taste it. Then, they might lick it, or eat it and then spit it out.
However frustrating it can be for us, these are actually real signs of success for them.
Bonus: Serving veggies that YOU like will help feel better knowing that they won’t go to waste, since you will be eating them.
2. Don’t pressure your kids to taste it.
Pressure can take many forms.
It can be a formal rule like the 2-bite rule or simply encouraging your child to taste something (e.g., “You never know until you try”).
It can be creating the scarcity effect by pretending to take the last one (and thereby manipulating your child into eating something), or it can be praising them for trying a new vegetable.
The problem is that pressure backfires by creating the problems you were trying to avoid in the first place!
Bonus # 1: You no longer have to play food cop. Once you sit down at the table, give your child the autonomy to decide whether or not he wants to try the vegetables and then redirect your focus.
Bonus # 2: When we let kids move at their own pace, they will begin to venture out and taste new foods, including those pesky vegetables!
3. Rotate and repeat.
Once you have identified the vegetables that you sincerely like eating, start serving them regularly… once a week or every few weeks.
Of course, make sure not to fall into the trap of doing so with pressure (e.g., I must serve them 33 times before she’ll eat them!).
Serve them with the knowledge that kids simply need time to get comfortable with eating new foods, especially veggies.
Even though your child probably won’t taste it right away, she is still learning to like it. Also, seeing it appear regularly tells your child implicitly that you believe in her ability to eat it one day.
Then, without pressure, she is more likely to start tasting and liking veggies sooner rather than later.
Bonus: Success is no longer determined by what your kids eat, but rather what you serve at the meal.
So, again, the 3 tools to teach your kids to love veggies are:
- Serve vegetables that YOU like.
- Don’t pressure your kids to taste it.
- Rotate and repeat.
You might be thinking: this sounds great, but I’ve tried some of these and they haven’t worked.
But, have you ever done ALL THREE of these things… every night? That’s my challenge for you today.
Try all three of these tools tonight or tomorrow night and then come back here and leave a comment and let me (and other readers) know how it worked out. Did your child try a new veggie? Did you feel less stress? We want to know!
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