What would you choose – a plate of fresh crisp vegetables or a hamburger from a big multinational? Research shows that for people who eat enough vegetables it has become a habit.

It’s the food choices we make for ourselves and our children that become lifelong habits.

I think we all agree that eating vegetables is important for our health. Some vegetables are an ‘acquired’ taste, so I hope to provide some tips which will help you acquire this all-important taste.

According to research from peer-reviewed scientific journals, the top three reasons for people not eating enough vegetables are:

1. Storage – not enough space to keep vegetables in the fridge or cupboard, and vegetables going off and needing to be thrown out.
2.Purchase – frustration with the price and quality of vegetables.
3. Preparation – unsure how to prepare vegetables for eating, or in a way that the taste is appealing.

With this in mind, here are five tips to increase vegetable consumption in your household:

1. Vegetables as an entrée.

My children currently have a love of raw baby carrots – washed, but not peeled. Sometimes it’s all about finding the novelty in food. I will often serve up a plate of raw and steamed vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, mushroom, broccoli and beans and offer this as the entrée before the rest of their dinner is served. This entrée plate of vegetables can be prepared earlier in the day. Another bonus is that it gives parents a bit more time to prepare the main meal.

Vegetable soup is another great entrée as we head into the cooler months and can double as a great lunch the next day. Mix it up with pumpkin, tomato, carrot or potato and leek soup. Pureed soups work well with children as the texture of lumpy soups can be too much.

2. Vegetables throughout the day.

A tasting plate as a snack is a great way to offer some extra vegetables. Carrots, cucumber and mushroom are some great vegetables to offer alongside cheese, fruit and some wholegrain bread or pasta.

3. Get the children involved.

Asking your children what they would like for dinner is a bit like asking if they are ready to go to bed – the answer is probably not going to be what you want to hear. But if you sit down and share with them some of your favourite cookbooks and ask them to choose some new meals to try, then they are more likely to be accepting of new food. When choosing the meals, get the children to include the vegetables that will be with or in the meal. Another option is to take your children shopping and get them to choose a new vegetable that they would like to try. I know shopping with children can be like torture, so if you have multiple children, consider using this as an opportunity for one-on-one time.

4. Ask your children about vegetables.

The answers might surprise you! I asked my eight and five year old two questions –
Why are vegetables important?
What are your favourite vegetables?
I loved their answers and it was a great conversation starter about the importance of healthy eating.

5. Role modelling.

We know that parents who eat a healthy diet are more likely to have children who eat healthily. To add to this, research shows that women are more likely to eat more vegetables than men. This makes it even more important that we mums eat vegetables in front of and with our children. So next time you go to grab a snack, think about vegetables!

If you are looking for another reason to increase your family’s vegetable intake, then there are very good environmental reasons – especially if you can improve your storage and preparation of vegetables as there will likely be less wastage. That is a win for everyone.

Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to three young kids. For more advice from Kate visit www.dietitianonline.com.au

Water-soluble vitamins are delicate and can be easily lost during cooking. Eating raw is an option for many vegetables, but here are a few tips on how to keep the nutrients in your vegetables:
– Scrub vegetables wherever possible instead of peeling. Potatoes and baby carrots are good examples.
– Steam or microwave vegetables instead of boiling them.
– Try stir-frying vegetables.

Pumpkin soup

Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pepper to taste
700g pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 carrot, washed and diced
½ sweet potato, peeled & diced
500g chicken stock

Method:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and stock and bring to the boil.
Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then blend to smooth puree.

Author

Kate runs www.dietitianonline.com.au and is mum to three young children. Kate has translated her love of all things online to providing expert nutrition coaching online – it works well for anyone who is busy! Kate’s passion lies in making healthy eating simple and enjoyable.

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