A few weeks ago, I heard a sound bite on the radio asking how to get kids to eat green vegetables.  They discussed how it was impossible to get their own kids to eat healthy.  I wanted to call in but had to get out of the car before radio listeners gave their advice.  Since a young age, both of our daughters have ate their green vegetables with little to do.  My wife and I developed a strategy and it worked brilliantly.  I thought I would share our process to help other parents in this challenging task. 

 

The first step to get kids to eat vegetables is to look inward.  Are you cooking veggies that could be served in a highly rated restaurant or would Gordon Ramsey spit it out in disgust?  Is your broccoli a puke green color over cooked to the point it smells wretched?  Is your spinach from a frozen package and boiled until it is dark green mush?  If so, start with a cooking lesson.  Broccoli should be bright green and slightly crisp when cooked properly in salted water to bring out its natural favor.  My kids regularly complain when greens are not salted properly because they have acquired Mom’s good task.

Green beans same thing.  If the color is putrid, you over cooked it.  For asparagus, try applying olive oil and salt and bake them for 8-12 min at 350 F.  They should be bright green and slightly crisp.  For spinach, sauté with olive oil, garlic and salt over medium heat.  Here are some examples.

After you have learned to cook vegetables well, it helps to incentivize the behavior you desire.  In our family, an incentive that works is desert after the meal.  My wife developed a song to reinforce this concept when the kids were young.  Sing the song to the melody, “If You are Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands.”

 

If you want a treat you have to eat your greens,

If you want a treat you have to eat your greens,

If you want a treat you have to,

If you want a treat you have to,

If you want a treat you have to eat your greens.

 

Maybe a desert is not an option for your family.  Think about what motivates your children or moves them to adopt the behavior you want.  Then create an environment that will help them succeed.  Here is the deal; you cannot give in.  No greens no incentive.  When my oldest daughter struggled to eat her greens at first, we struggled enforcing the deal.  Sometimes we gave in when only half the greens were eaten.  It’s best not to give in.  Kids learn fast.  They want the incentive and will eventually eat greens to get it.  It only fair to do your part and cook greens properly to maximize taste.

 

Another tip is to vary the greens you cook.  There could be one they just won’t eat.  That’s okay.  My kids hate salad, but they eat spinach, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green beans, edamame, asparagus and broccoli.  Pick your battles.  They are meeting you more than halfway.  We make sure to have greens at every lunch and dinner.  Now my kids ask this question if we don’t have greens because we ran out, “Daddy’s can I still have treat even though we didn’t have greens?”  I reply, “Sure but have a piece of fruit first.”  They are psyched and so am I.

 

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