Here We Go: How To Get Your Child To Eat More Greens
STORY: Pearlyn Tham
16 September 2021
Unless nai bai, kang kong and broccoli looked and tasted like hash browns, fried chicken and chocolate cake, no kid we know was ever a natural-born fan of vegetables – especially the scary leafy kind. But fibre is an important part of any diet (plus, long waits on the poop potty are not fun or healthy) so here are some ways to get your mini-me to chomp on more greens.
1. Let them shop and decide
Yes, give your little ones some autonomy the next time you go to the supermarket. Let them decide what goes into the pot for dinner – of course, steer them towards the vegetable section – and remind them during the meal that they have to finish up what they chose.
2. Let them join in the food prep
Take it one level up and get the older children to help out with prepping and cooking. They will feel more inclined to eat what they spent time and effort preparing.
3. Cut greens up into smaller, child-friendly portions
When you are all of 1.2m tall, a broccoli floret can look monstrous, intimidating and unappealing. Sometimes, getting your kid to eat more greens can be as easy as slicing and chopping the offensive vegetables into more manageable portions.
4. Mix up the colours and variety
To an adult, the most delicious salads are the ones that come generously heaped with a rainbow-worthy assortment of leafy and root vegetables, beans and grains. Why should it be any different for your five-year-old? Throw in some colourful fruit like grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe too. Unless your child’s a closet Morticia Addams, chances are he or she loves colour.
5. Offer one “old” vegetable and a new one
By old here, we don’t mean something that’s wilted but something that your kid has been eating for some time and hopefully, doesn’t mind eating more of. Children can be creatures of habit so you’d want to introduce a new vegetable slowly into their diet without taking out the old favourites.
6. Use different cooking methods
Don’t serve only steamed veggies. Even you would get bored. If you have the time and means, alternate the cooking methods: roast pumpkin on Mondays, stir-fries on Tuesday, vegetable soup with fishballs on Wednesday, and so on.
7. Get them to drink, not eat, their greens
All that endless chewing can make little jaws really tired and restless. Puree vegetables into a thick soup or a smoothie instead.
8. Why not make a vegetable dessert instead?
If you don’t call a vegetable a vegetable, Junior may be more intrigued to give it a try. Bake a batch of zucchini muffins or pumpkin cakes, freeze some cucumber sorbet and make some spinach fudge.
9. Make cauliflower, broccoli, chye sim etc look cute
Food art is a big business on Instagram. When you have more time and energy, say, on weekends, try turning your kid’s most-hated vegetables into little cute art. Style a food picture with leafy vegetables as trees, an egg yolk as the sun and steamed corn as the beach.
10. Give vegetables cute names
If you can’t be bothered to make food art with supermarket produce (and most of us can’t), at least rechristen them with a dose of creativity. You can refer to broccoli as dinosaurs, tomatoes as jewels and cauliflower as clouds.
11. Serve food on cute plates and with cuter cutlery
In adult speak, it’s called plating and you know how much more you love your Michelin-star food when the plating is in a league of its own.
12. Pair greens with the right food
Okay, there’s some science behind this. Apparently, it has been found that young children are more likely to lap up vegetables if these are paired with a food that isn’t so delicious. So, you won’t have a high success rate if you serve greens with something “distracting” like fries or popcorn chicken. But, yay, you could get your kid to clean up the plate if you pair vegetables with pan-fried chicken breast or fish fillet.
13. Practise what you preach
Monkey see, monkey do, monkey eat. If you hate your greens and never finish any of them on your plate, your offspring will follow suit.
14. Just wait it out
Unless you raise your child as a vegan from day one, most kids we know (including us when we were at that age) hate eating their peas, beets, leaves and practically anything that’s good for them. Take your time to ease the little ones into enjoying their vegetables. Life sometimes is more than about meeting fibre quotas.