What's for Dinner?
The ultimate question at the end of a busy, stressful day—What’s for dinner?—can seem like an impossible one to answer. Also, the thought of having to entice your kids to eat the vegetables that you so graciously prepared for them is stressful all on its own. Meal time should be about gathering together to talk and laugh while nourishing our bodies, not a struggle or battle over unwanted food.
The struggle when encountering a child who is unwilling to eat vegetables may become so great that you become convinced it is a battle no longer worth fighting. But don’t give up! Though vegetables are just one component of a balanced meal, they are certainly one of the more important players on the plate and should not be overlooked.
Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
Vegetables are very high in nutrient content, loaded with vitamins and minerals that contribute to growth and promote ongoing good health. Some of the most common nutrients include potassium, folate (folic acid), vitamin A and vitamin C. Perhaps most importantly, vegetables are rich in a particular group of nutrients called antioxidants, which can fight cellular damage and help prevent many diseases.
Scoot over apples! Another substantial benefit of vegetables is fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient found only in plant foods. As part of a healthy diet, fiber can help keep your child’s digestive system running smoothly and efficiently. Fiber also makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time. This makes veggies a great snack time option, enabling kids to get from meal to meal without filling up on less nutritious foods.
Now that your faith has been rejuvenated and restored in vegetables, let’s focus in on some ways you can help your child include vegetables.
- Have a rule at your table that food cannot be vetoed unless tried and tested, and that children must try three bites before saying they don’t like something.
- Allow children to choose their own portions—within reason. Picky eaters often want to maintain some control over their meals. So with the exception of the three mandatory bites of new foods, the amount is up to them.
- Once a week, let the kids plan the menu. Again, this is a chance to give them some control over the meal.
- Get them while they’re hungry! If they're hungry, they'll eat. Before dinner, serve an appetizer of colorful vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers and red bell peppers, along with a hummus or salad dressing.
- Go shopping with your kids. Let them pick out the vegetables of their choice, allowing them to smell, touch and admire the various colors.
- Cook with your kids. Allowing kids to help with food preparation creates a sense of both control and value which may help them feel more inclined to eating their veggies.
- Hide the veggies. Veggies can be added to casseroles, sauces, burritos, quesadillas—you name it!
- Offer choices. Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?”
- Offer the same foods for the whole family. Don’t be a “short-order cook,” making a different vegetable for your child. Your child will be okay even if he or she does not eat it.
- Enjoy each other while eating family meals together. Talk about fun and happy things. Make meal times about family, with food as the bonus!
By incorporating these tips, you will hopefully have a newfound confidence about the question, what’s for dinner? Remember that change happens over time, but with patience and perseverance, you too can be successful!