We all know vegetables are good for us, but what do we do when we just don't want to eat them?
Do you force them down? Or, make your child sit at the table until all the veggies on their plate are gone?
These may not be the best solutions. I have a better solution for you! After doing research for my book, The Food Dare, I discovered that in order to make a lasting change in the way you eat, you need to think outside the box.
So, how can we ensure that our families are getting enough vegetables in their life without being restrictive or forceful?
There are seven things you can do to make eating vegetables a more positive and simple experience for the whole family:
1. Eat them with a little fat
Eating vegetables with a little fat, such as an oil or cheese, not only helps to improve the taste of the veggie, but it can actually make them better for you. Adding a little fat to your vegetables or salad (such as cheese or an oil-based dressing) helps the body absorb the nutrients found in the vegetables. So, don't be afraid to add some of those healthy fats to your veggies to make them more delicious and nutritious.
2. Change the way you cook them
You don't have to eat raw vegetables to get their full benefits. In fact, changing the way you prepare them may actually help you eat more. Roasting broccoli, for example, can help to pull out it's natural sugars and make it more appealing. Mashed vegetables, such as cauliflower may satisfy your consistency preference. Try experimenting with different ways to prepare your veggies. Think roast, steam, saute, mash, etc.
3. Hide it in dishes you know you love
Eating vegetables doesn't have to be boring. Instead of putting a pile of steamed vegetables in a clump on the plate and asking your 10-year old to eat them, try adding them to his favorite dish instead. You can "sneak" more vegetables into the meals your child already loves and make them enjoyable. Add some extra veggies to the spaghetti sauce. Or how about adding it to their favorite macaroni and cheese? These little additions won't change the flavor of their favorite dish and are picky-eater approved. Hint: this works for picky-eater adults too.
4. Drink them
Making a fruit and vegetable smoothie is one of the most delicious ways to eat more vegetables. Choose 2-3 fruits and 1-2 vegetables and combine them in a blender. The sweetness of the fruits will overpower any veggie taste that may be objectionable on their own.
5. Create a positive experience
Did you know that you can actually train your brain to like new foods using social cues? If you correlate the food you're eating to a positive experience (such as eating it with someone you love or admire) it can actually make the food seem more enjoyable. Try creating a positive experience around the vegetable you think you don't like and train your brain to like it.
6. Add more color
Many kids (and adults) are turned off by the green vegetable color, especially if they have had a negative experience with a vegetable in the past. Instead of continuing to force the greens, try some vegetables of different colors, such as peppers. Look for orange, red, blue/purple, and yellow vegetables to make them more appealing.
7. Be an example
You've likely heard it before, but I'll say it again: "Set a good example." If you are not setting a good example for your family, how can you expect them to create good eating habits? Your children are listening to what you say, so speak positively about vegetables, show them how you enjoy them, and make eating your veggies a good experience, not a restriction or a rule.
Eating vegetables daily helps to ensure that our body gets the essential vitamins and minerals it needs for good health. Not only can this help you maintain a healthy weight, but it can also help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. We all want that right?