Want Kids to eat more veggies? Take them off the plate!

Want Kids to eat more veggies? Take them off the plate!

When it comes to getting our kids to eat more vegetables, we may need to be a little more strategic! 

In 2013, the government updated school lunch program requirements to include vegetables right on school lunch plates; alongside the entree. However, when the kids left the lunch room their plates were cleared, except for those vegetables!

But then in 2015 researchers at Texas A&M University, after analyzing plate waste data from nearly 8,500 students discovered a significant variable that seemed to affect whether kids eat their spinach or green beans more than anything: what else is on the plate. If there was something else they would rather eat, they chose that over the veggies.

You likely didn't need a University study to know that when a slice of pizza, hamburger or some mac and cheese are sharing the same plate as a serving of broccoli, the broccoli will lose that competition most of the time.

The solution the researchers came up with? Put vegetables in a competition they can win--by pitting them against no food at all. They tested it by serving kids the veggies first in school cafeterias and it more than quadrupled the amount of vegetables eaten! (Wash Post 9/9/15)  Unfortunately, instituting that kind of approach in a large school cafeteria setting seemed to be too tall a task.  

But in a smaller setting or at home, it might be one strategy that can work.

  • Give your kiddos the vegetables first, when they are hungriest. Registered Dietitian, Ilyse Schapiro, employs that strategy in her home. "Right as my girls walk in from school I try to have a vegetable plate out; this way it's the first thing they see and they don't even have to think to ask for anything else,

They don’t have to be all alone on the plate.  Pair them with a dip they like. Making eating a fun activity can be a big enticement, especially for younger children.

  • Let eating veggies be more fun and interactive. Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of The Plant-Powered Dietitian says kids love to eat veggies when they can dip them in a flavorful dip or sauce, such as hummus, ranch dip, fruit salsa, guacamole, or nut butter.

Of course just making them taste good may be the best strategy of all. Vegetables are very versatile when it comes to ways of preparing and flavoring them.

  • Try different preparation styles - Try roasting different vegetables instead of serving them raw – the roasting process brings out the natural sweetness of the food, which can be more appealing to their taste. Mixing them spices and dressing they like.

  • Mixing them in with things they want to eat! Add some chopped veggies to that mac'n'cheese. Add more veggies to casseroles and soups. 

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