Our resident nutritionist Georgia from Well Nourished is writing for us today. She’s tackling that age old issue of getting your kids to eat their greens. And I’ve added in my own little success story at the end of this. Right, now over to Georgia…
8 tips to get your kids eating their greens
So we’re heading into ‘that’ time of year where viruses and bugs become more prevalent. I firmly believe that nature provides what we need to survive, thrive and be healthy. And it just so happens that green leafy vegetables are coming into season right now too.
Green vegetables have a very high nutrient content, in fact they have more nutrients per calorie than any other food. Forget fancy and expensive ‘super’ foods, greens are as nourishing as it gets. Their high level of nutrients coupled with many potent, immune enhancing Phyto (plant) chemicals, results in much-needed virus protection in the winter months. So consuming greens in some capacity, daily during winter, is a key factor in preventing colds and flu. Nature as always provides.
‘Well that’s all good and great but my kids won’t touch anything green and leafy’
If greens are off the cards for your kids, please don’t accept that this is the way it is and give up on your kids ever eating them let alone enjoying them. They are just too important for their long term health and there are many things that you can do to bring them around…
1. Never stop serving them
It took almost 3 years of serving up salads to my kids before they finally started eating them. My son used to pick up the leaves, lick them, frown and say ‘don’t like flowers!’ (no matter how many times I corrected him that they were leaves, he maintained they were in fact flowers!). Role model healthy eating by eating leafy greens yourself and always offer them to your kids. Put the greens in a self-serve bowl and encourage them to serve up some themselves (children love to feel independent). If they are too young for this then just place one or two leaves onto their plate. Also set the expectation that they don’t have to eat it but they do need to try it. As I said it took almost 3 years of doing this before either of my children gave into greens.
2. Get them to shop and prepare them
Any kind of involvement with ‘greens’ is essential to them accepting them as a delicious food to be enjoyed. This could be anything from asking them to help choose the best looking lettuce when at the supermarket or simply tossing the salad. For my son, I got him to pull the chord on the salad spinner when I washed leaves and then put them into a salad bowl. Because he had ‘made’ the salad (always give full credit no matter how small the contribution) he all of a sudden decided ‘flowers’ were good to eat and leafy greens soon became his favourite food (no exaggeration).
3. Add them into foods they love eating
The best thing about greens is they can be added without detection in many cases. You can choose to ‘hide’ them by chopping them very finely and mixing through a casserole, pasta sauce, soup or curry. Or finely chop them and put them in a small bowl for them to add themselves – my kids always do this with basil in say a pasta sauce or Mediterranean casserole or coriander on Indian or Asian cuisine. Always stir through a curry or casserole just prior to serving. Prolonged cooking destroys many of the nutrients in greens so mixing in at the last minute is the way to go.
4. Add them into pesto
5. Make sure they are tasty
Making sure green vegetables are tasty is essential – by itself, say for example baby spinach isn’t very appealing, but add a home made dressing or cook it in garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and it is so much more delicious. Plus, adding fats to your greens (butter, coconut oil, olive oil) or a delicious dressing greatly assists the absorption of nutrients from vegetables and salads. So it’s a win win!
6. Add spinach to smoothies and ice blocks
I find baby spinach has such a mild flavour that it disappears in a smoothie, especially behind strong flavours such as berries and chocolate. My kids love spinach and fresh mint blended with pineapple, coconut water and ice for a really refreshing drink. For more on adding vegetables to smoothies click here.
7. Stay positive
Do you use the same tone and level of excitement when talking about greens as you do say a sweet treat? It’s important you are always positive and up-beat about the foods you want your kids to eat.
8. Market their benefits
Marketing the benefits of eating greens is important too. Instead of selling them as being ‘good for you’ or ‘healthy’, appeal to the things that really matter to your kids (being ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ means very little to kids unless they’ve been seriously unwell throughout their life). For example; my son wants to be stronger and faster, so I drop little hints that his favourite superhero relies on greens for his strength and speed. For my daughter, I appeal to her vanity – ‘greens for longer, shinier hair’. Whatever appeals to your child. McDonalds market their food to kids very well, so why can’t you? Don’t harp on, just little consistent comments will do.
DON’T GIVE UP!
You would never give up on teaching your kids to learn to read or write or toilet train, so please don’t give up on them learning to love eating their greens!
My own success story
I’ve known Georgia for a few years now and when my son was 2, I was chatting to her about the fact that he wasn’t eating certain vegetables. Georgia told me what she’s just told you, “don’t give up and don’t stop offering”. So that’s exactly what I did. My son wouldn’t touch peas. Wouldn’t touch them!! But I still continued to put them on this plate night after night, continued to eat them myself, and after 10 attempts, he still wasn’t interested. To be completely honest, we were up to 20 attempts and I kept thinking ‘why am I wasting time (and food!) doing this!” but Georgia’s voice was still there in my head and so I kept going. Then one day (it must have been closer to the 30th attempt), my son starting eating them and ate the entire lot. Totally surprised me and my husband. And now he loves them. I’ve done the same thing with other vegetables, like raw spinach leaves… I kept going and going and offering and offering and sure enough, I have a boy who now eats spinach. So I did the same with celery, raw beans and so much more. So trust me when I say, persistence does pay off! Plus yes, I do tell him that it’ll make him run super fast like his superhero friends. I tell his younger sister that as well and that if she wants any chance of trying to run as fast as him and catch him, she’ll have to eat them too!
A Naturopath, freestyle cook, and mother of two divine children. Also wife to a fine food loving husband. She as 20 years of Naturopathic experience, treating and mentoring patients on matters of health and wellness. Her blog is her commitment to further share my passion and knowledge of health, food and healing.
For more healthy inspiration and immune-boosting family friendly recipes, visit www.wellnourished.com.au
You can support Georgia’s work by purchasing one of her gorgeous ebooks: (grab 10% off using codeword BABYBERRY10)
- Rise and Shine – A Well Nourished Breakfast
- The Well Nourished Lunchbox
- Well Nourished Sides and Salads
50+ Exclusive Offers
Access 50+ Exclusive Offers (aka discount codes) to use at various stores around Australia & New ZealandAccess here