How do I get my kids to eat more veggies?
The moment I knew I had made it as a parent was the day Joel burst into tears at dinner because Luke had taken more salad than he had on his plate. That was the heavenly moment every parent craves. My kids have been known to fight over who gets the last serving of vegetable soup or who gets the most spirulina tablets to chew… They will happily eat raw vegetables as snacks (broccoli, cabbage, peas, carrots), vegetable soups for lunch or dinner (pumpkin, potato, vegetable), and green blossom smoothies (apples, lemons, limes and raw spinach/silverbeet/kale blended). Trey and Joel both chew on raw spirulina tablets. People often ask me what my secret is.
Funnily enough, it started out with necessity and then it became a healthy habit. When I started raising children I was barely 21 and I was earning very little money. I was 100% committed to healing my illness and getting healthy so all we ate were healthy foods. We made everything fresh and ate what there was. It was a case of ‘here is breakfast’ and if there was any ‘I don’t want it’ then I would just say ‘ok, you are obviously not hungry. I will leave it here on the table and when you are hungry you can eat it later’.
They always came back and ate it.
Kids will not starve themselves
Do not be fooled by your kids into thinking they will starve themselves. Often we are victims of ‘too much choice’ rather than ‘if you are hungry then you will eat what you are given’. Kids behave into the environment they are allowed to. All kids are strong-willed and they all want you to lead the way for them. The other trick is to make it fun. I remember once I got really excited about cabbage and was crunching making a loud noise in my youngest boy’s ears. The boys loved this and we were all in hysterics. They have loved raw cabbage ever since. We call soaked oats ‘summer porridge’ as a way of having the kids eat raw oats through the warmer months.
The sad reality for kids
Nearly 70% of New Zealand children are not eating enough fruit and vegetables; they are watching too much TV, barely 40% are getting regular exercise, and by age 20-24, 85% are not eating well. Almost 50% of the calories many kids eat now are from deadly solid fats/added sugars. The good news is that 93% of kids growing vegetables at home or school will eat them and eat better if given the chance. If you compare the internal bacteria of children on the modern diet to African children eating primitive wholefood diets, they are completely different, leading to modern allergies and disease.
The harsh reality is YOU have to lead the way
The only other advice I will give on this subject is that if you want your kids to eat better, then you have to eat better. It starts with you. If you are genuinely walking the talk, enjoying raw fresh fruits and vegetables, then they will too. You have to change your diet first. The reason our children will eat lots of fresh raw fruits and vegetables is because Tracey and I eat lots of fresh raw fruits and vegetables. Your kids will enjoy tasty, healthy vegetarian meals if they are exposed to them by you – one awesomely delicious meal at a time.
Explain to your children why vegetables are important as all kids want to be healthy, strong, fast and fit. The more you educate your kids – the more they want to eat well.
Written by Jason Shon Bennett from jasonshonbennett.com