Children often announce random likes and dislikes which often don’t mean anything – but there are some tips you can use to get them to eat their vegetables.
1. Be a good role model for eating
If you want your children to eat vegetables, then you need to eat them, AND be seen to eat them by your children AND be seen to like them. So eat green beans and say, "These are so crunchy!".
2. Eat as a family
Try to eat at the table with the family as often as you can. Eating with others can make eating seem more normal and less of an issue, as the focus is less on the food and more on the conversation. Then eat vegetables with your meal, and give them to your children, so that you're all eating them. It will start to seem normal.
Pick your fights carefully. Pressure, blackmail, anger, upset and any kind of drama will make the child dig in their heels – and you will have lost the battle.
3. Say the right things
What you say is almost as important as what you do – so try to say the right things about food. Eat healthy food and comment "this is lovely", have a second helping saying "this is really lovely", and stop when you are full, saying "I am full now". Don’t call healthy food ‘boring’ or even ‘so healthy’.
4. Be encouraging
You can encourage a child to eat more, but don’t let this dominate a meal. The odd comment such as "try to eat a few more peas" or "have a bit more of your tea or you’ll be hungry later on" are fine. But pressure, blackmail, anger, upset and any kind of drama will make the child dig in their heels – and you will have lost the battle. Pick your fights carefully.
5. Use mindless eating
Mindless eating is usually seen as a problem and many people mindlessly eat more because it's there. But it can also be used to help children eat more healthy foods. So when your child is watching the TV or in the car, give them a bowl of chopped up fruit, a box of grapes or a plate of carrot sticks and cucumber, and they will eat it without thinking.
6. Use peer pressure
Children like to be like their friends, so use peer pressure. Invite friends round for tea and give them all the same food, and the same amount to eat. Or try asking for your child to go to a friend's for tea, and tell the mum to feed your child whatever they are feeding theirs – but not to make a fuss about it.
Just because they don’t eat something once doesn’t mean they won’t the next time. So don’t give up. Cook vegetables. Give them vegetables and eat vegetables in front of them, or get their friends to eat them. Eventually they will give in. Children just really want to be like everyone else.
Jane Ogden is the author of The Good Parenting Food Guide.