If parents where a Game Of Thrones house, their sigil would probably be something like a pair of crossed arms over a flaming heart on a green field. Their “words” would probably be “Eat Your Goddamn Vegetables.” Sure, it’s no “Winter Is Coming,” but not everyone gets a killer slogan. Looking at you, House Royce. “We Remember”? Lame.
But seriously, though, getting your kids to eat a freaking carrot can be a task comparable to taming dragons. At some point things are going to get hairy (and it will probably be the cauliflower, moldering, uneaten, in the fridge).
The good news is that there are methods, and secret ways, to get something green in your kid’s face. Here are some of the best.
Grow Your Own
Interestingly, it turns out that when kids are invested in getting their vegetables to the table, they’re more likely to eat those vegetables. Not only that, the trend will apparently continue well after they’ve stopped gardening. At least that was the conclusion of a recent study in Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics that surveyed the eating habits of college kids.
So maybe make a space in your yard for some veg that’s easy for them to grow. Think carrots, tomatoes, and sweet peppers for a start. Add snap peas, cucumber, and lettuce if you want to salad-ify the garden. Make sure your kid plants the seeds or otherwise has a hand in nurturing their dinner.
Change Their Attitude
Sociologist, parent educator, and feeding specialist Dina Rose, Ph.D. has some fine ideas about helping your kid get a better handle on food. One of the biggies is helping them understand that there are foods are for “sometimes,” and other foods that are even rarer treats. This means bumping up the variety and amount of the good stuff to normalize healthy choices and make good eating a habit.
It will take some doing, but you can definitely make it happen. Particularly if you throw in a couple of other fun vegetable techniques. No, not juggling them. Although, if you can, why not?
Season The Green
You know what’s awesome? Butter, salt, garlic, and bacon. And that’s just a very tiny amount of the many ways to dress up veggies (aside from making your carrots tiny overalls). It’s very possible your kid isn’t eating the produce you’re putting down because it’s gross, steamed nonsense.
And if cooking and seasoning doesn’t do the trick, try bringing them to the table raw. A crisp spinach leaf may rival the creamed variety.
There’s a thing out there called a spiralizer. It magically (okay, not magically) turns vegetables into noodles. You know what kids like? Noodles.
If you have the energy, you can make eating veggies a game. Try to see if your kid is willing to “eat a rainbow” by giving them variety of different colored options. Ask if the colors taste different. Try to get them to describe the taste beyond “good” or “yucky.” Or create a veggie point system, or program an AR app that will cause the broccoli to dance … You know, if you can do that sort of thing.
Kids like to feel like they have control. (Spoiler, everybody does.) So give your kid “choices” of vegetables to choose from. These choices are even more powerful if they happen in the store. A kid who helps buy and prepare meals is far more likely to eat them.
One recent study found that kids would eat more carrots if they were called “x-ray vision” carrots. Obviously, you know what’s next: “smelly pee asparagus.”
And just like regular rebranding, there are many ways to go about it. Another study found that veggies were more likely to be eaten when placed next to entrees that were not kid favorites. This makes sense. It’s kind of like how the chaos in your home isn’t so bad compared to the chaos at work.
Obviously, it’s far better for your kid just to think vegetables are a good, normal thing to have on their plate. But there is an option of last resort. Leafy greens, when rendered to a pulp by a blender, are easily hid in baked goods and smoothies.
Consider it kind of like when the Frays invited the King of the North for a party and wound up slaughtering everyone. Except instead of a Red Wedding, you’ll be serving green pancakes.