My least favorite part of parenting is feeding my children. It is the WORST. Yes, I’m being a little dramatic, but seriously, it really is the worst. From the moment my babies took their first bites of solid food, I’ve been stressed out over feeding them. Trying to find the balance between nutrition and just-freaking-getting-anything-into-their-bellies exhausts me!
I think the hardest food to get my kids to eat is vegetables. I am a firm believer in offering vegetables to my children in their original form, and I do that every night. It’s totally awesome when my kids eat the veggies they’ve been given, but, come ON. This is the real world and that does not always happen. Despite ample exposure to healthy food their entire lives, my children just don’t always go for it.
The other night as my 3-year-old son stubbornly sat in his high chair for 45 minutes refusing to eat just ONE bite of vegetables, I couldn’t help but ponder the issue. So, I posed the following question to my friends:
“What is the craziest thing you have ever done to get your kids to eat their vegetables?”
The answers were helpful and hilarious! Today I’m sharing a few of the responses with you, both for good tips and good laughs. (And, in case you’re wondering, my 3-year-old finally did take a bite after my 6-year-old very creatively fed it to him!)
1. Lies, Lies and More Lies
My daughters were recently telling me how sometimes you have to lie to keep from hurting someone else’s feelings. For example, someone may make you food that is gross but you say, “That was delicious, thank you for thinking of me!” anyway. I wonder if my girls learned this trait subconsciously from me as I try to trick them into eating healthy food. Perhaps they know, “I swear you like this food, you used to eat it all the time!” might not be entirely true. Hmmmmm… Also, why was that the example they chose? Were they trying to say something about my cooking? But I digress …
My friend Caitlin once told her 2-year-old that his green smoothie had invisible chocolate in it. Guess what? He drank the smoothie. Invisible chocolate is, apparently, delicious.
2. Turn Veggies into the Forbidden Fruit
It’s human nature to want to do something you’re not supposed to do and, surprisingly, this applies to eating veggies! My friend Marg, a long-time librarian and teacher, once taught a fourth-grade nutrition class. For the culminating activity, the kids made sculptures out of raw veggies and ranch dressing. They made the sculptures close to lunchtime, so Marg kept telling the children they had to wait to eat their artwork. They kept cheating and stealing forbidden bites! She said the students kept asking, “Now can we eat them?” in an are-we-there-yet sort of way, and when the answer was finally “Yes,” they gobbled away, hardly coming up for air!
3. Play with Your Food
My friend Melissa said that her daughter likes to anthropomorphize everything. So, Melissa and her husband are not above giving voices to the veggies. Those veggies literally beg to join the party in their daughter’s stomach!
4. Starvation for the Greater Good
Beth says that starving your kids before dinner and then feeding them veggies is always a great strategy. Of course, she does offer raw veggies as an appetizer prior to dinner so no one dies of hunger. “If you really want to eat, kids, here’s a carrot!” In all seriousness, Beth has found that serving a wide variety of vegetables at every meal and cutting back on the more simple carbs, both at snacktime and dinnertime, has helped tremendously with getting her kids to eat vegetables. My friend Sharon has a similar strategy with a “no snacks after 4 pm” rule in their home and serving lots of veggies at dinner. Her husband will even only serve veggies at mealtime!
5. Appealing to Vanity
Courtney discovered with her husband the other night that if they told their son Jack they could see his muscles growing bigger with every green bean he ate, he ate more than his usual one green bean. She said they will be using this strategy from now on!
6. Crazy Food Combos: If It Works, Go with It!
Courtney told me that back when she was a nanny, she put spinach in the child’s PB&J sandwich. The child’s mom has since reported that her daughter still only wants her PB&J sandwiches that way!
Photo Credit: Farm Fresh Eats
What I learned when talking with my friends is that people have combined veggies with all kinds of foods you would never expect. I love that Kirsten puts shredded veggies in just about everything, including tacos, and Holly actually puts beets in her cupcakes! I see nothing wrong with mixing veggies into all kinds of foods – the nutrition boost is always welcome!
Photo Credit: Happy Food Healthy Life
7. Weird Al to the Rescue
Another friend named Caitlin said they would play Weird Al’s “Just Eat It” during dinner and it actually worked! Just so long as you don’t mind listening to Weird Al every day, this is an excellent strategy!
When all else fails, a little bribery never hurt anyone. Scratch that, good parents would never bribe their kids. Ha! Jaclyn and Heather both publicly admitted to bribery when it comes to veggies, and I’ll admit to the same tactic. Maybe renaming it would make it sound less House of Cards and more really-good-parenting.
9. Take out Your False Teeth
Our final story for today definitely wins the prize for craziest. My daughter’s third-grade teacher Wendy told me that she and her sisters had a Scottish nanny who would take out her false teeth when she wanted them to eat their veggies. While the girls’ mouths were dropped open in shock and awe at seeing Maggie without her teeth, Maggie would spoon the vegetables into the kids’ mouths. Wendy said it worked every time! It might be worth getting your teeth pulled and going with false teeth if it means your kids will eat their veggies. Just saying’.