One question I hear over and over from parents is: “How can I get my child to eat more vegetables?” Helping our kids build strong bodies and healthy immune systems can seem tricky if you’re dealing with a picky eater, especially as we all try to adjust to this “new normal.” One way we can help our kids become more willing to eat vegetables while spending time at home is to start a small garden. This is a great family activity that incorporates many of the components of a healthy child: time spent outside, physical activity, eating fresh, whole foods and a bonus science lesson built right in! No room for a small raised garden bed? No problem! Several of these can be grown in pots in a sunny area on a doorstep or driveway.
A great starter plant is cherry tomatoes. You can buy a sprouted cherry tomato plant at one of our local garden centers, and they are great for young children’s short attention spans as they tend to produce fruit quickly. These can be grown in a garden bed or even a medium pot. Cherry tomatoes are fun for young children as they make a healthy sweet snack right off the vine (but use caution with kids younger than 3 to prevent choking). Another fun idea is to grow a variety of herbs, which can be done in pots, planter boxes, or in the ground. Mint, basil, rosemary, parsley and chives are full of flavor and don’t require much attention aside from plenty of sun and water. Have your child pluck a few leaves from each herb and taste the differences. A few sprigs of basil and some of your homegrown cherry tomatoes mixed with some fresh mozzarella cheese makes a delicious salad, and your child can see the product of their hard work right on their plate! They can also pick some to put on pita pizzas with their favorite cheese or other toppings.
If you do have access to a larger space, I recommend giving zucchini and the smaller variety ‘snacking’ peppers a try. Zucchini plants can grow quite large, but often produce a lot every week, so they’re worth the space! Zucchinis are also great for kids that are resistant to stronger flavors, as they’re very mild, and can be grated up and “hidden” in smoothies, pancakes, pasta sauce and banana bread. Sweet snacking peppers come in several colors and can make a fun “eat the rainbow” experiment as your child samples each one.
If you’re not able to garden at home, remember that any exposure to vegetables can help kids become more comfortable and thus more willing to taste and enjoy them. You and your child can grow herbs right on your kitchen counter. Or, have them help you sort the vegetables you bring home from the store, and they can wash them with a scrub brush at the sink or in a basin of water. After you’ve chopped and prepped the vegetables, save the scraps and encourage your child to use carrot tops, potato ends, bell pepper stems, etc. to paint with and make “stamps” on paper or cardboard. The more fun experiences a child has with vegetables, the more willing they’ll be to try them.
Show off your green thumb by tagging your garden pictures and creative veggie paintings on IG @leanlifehealthcoaching and
@familyandkidsga. For more recipes, or to learn about our health coaching programs, visit LeanLifeHealthCoaching.com