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How to Get Your Family to Eat More Vegetables
Written by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
Do your kids whine, moan, or make gagging sounds when you put green beans or zucchini on their plates? Or does your partner infuriate you by saying “no thanks” when you serve kale, Brussels sprouts, or spaghetti squash? Then welcome to the Great Dinner-Time Veggie Battle.
If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone in this battle. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my patients is, “It’s tough for me to lose weight without my family’s support, but they fight me tooth and nail over eating vegetables.”
I know it’s frustrating when you wage this war over your dinner table each night—but don’t give up! The fiber and nutrients in those veggies are absolutely crucial for weight loss, a glowing gut, and vibrant health. So for your own sake and your family’s, you need to convince everyone that veggies aren’t the enemy. And luckily, there are ways to do it without tempers flaring. Here are some of my favorite tricks:
Have your entire family help you plant a garden. When they help you dig your garden plot, pick out plants at the nursery, and gather what you grow, they’ll develop a sense of ownership—and that will make them more likely to try a taste of their harvest. If you don’t have room for a garden, have your family help you plant veggies in pots on your patio.
Cook together. Again, this fosters a sense of ownership. Ask your partner to create a dinner salad each night, or give your kids fun chores like “zoodling” zucchini noodles or scooping the strands out of spaghetti squash.
Visit farmers’ markets together. Ask each member of your family to pick out one vegetable that you’ll include in your menu that week. Also, give them a say in how they’d like their veggies prepared.
Add veggies to fruit smoothies. You can sneak spinach, pumpkin, cucumbers, and steamed zucchini or carrots into fruit smoothies without anyone noticing.
Take a lesson from advertisers. Sell those veggies! For instance, transform plain sweet potatoes into cute, tasty silver dollar sweet potatoes. For kids, cut cucumber slices into hearts with a small cookie cutter. Call broccoli florets “little trees.” Stuff celery with almond butter and add a sprinkle of raisins to make “bugs on a log.” The more fun you make veggies, the less intimidating they become.
Offer a dip. My BLT dip, for example, will make the pickiest eater enjoy bell peppers, carrots, and celery.
Try different cooking approaches. A partner who hates baked sweet potatoes may love sweet potato fries. A child who says “eeeuuw” when you serve steamed cauliflower may decide that cauliflower rice is great stuff.
Take your time. If your family members freak out when you introduce a new vegetable, try the “one-bite” rule. As them to take a single bite each time you serve it, and they’ll eventually get accustomed to the taste (and maybe even start to like it!).
Respect strong opinions. Foods taste different to different people. For instance, while most people love cilantro, it tastes like soap to others. If your partner or child really, really, really hates a certain vegetable or herb, don’t force the issue.
Above all, be patient with your picky eaters. Instead of nagging them, encourage them. Rather than getting mad when they say “no,” find creative ways to tempt them. In time, you’ll win them over… one veggie at a time!
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