It’s no secret that getting kids to eat their greens can be a challenge. In fact, recent studies suggest that kids have an in-built instinct to be cautious of vegetables, inherited from our ancestors who would have to be wary of poisonous plants in the wild. But that doesn’t mean your child will never eat their greens – with a bit of persistence and help from our tips below, even the most fussy of eaters can enjoy their veg.
Our aim at the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is to get kids excited about food. Through our Kitchen Garden Project and Jamie’s Ministry of Food Centres we introduce kids of all ages to new tastes and flavours every day, by making recipes simple, fun and interactive.
Our top tip is to get your kids involved in the kitchen. If a child has had the opportunity to take part in their food preparation, they feel more invested in a meal and far more likely to try that unknown scary green food that they would normally reject. This lemony spring greens recipe is a good one to start with. Get your kids involved from the start – take them to the shops to buy the ingredients; let them pick which lemons they would like to use and help them choose the freshest-looking spring greens.
Children love cooking, so even if they tell you they HATE spring greens, they’re unlikely to turn down the opportunity to fill up the pan with water or zest the lemon (watching out for those little fingers of course). Make it as fun as you can, challenge them to see how strong they are by asking them to squeeze out as much lemon juice as they can into a big bowl!
Adding some flavour
If you read our blog last week you will know how you can make a salad a hundred times more exciting with a simple jam jar dressing. Well, that doesn’t have to stop with salad! A pile of boiled green veg doesn’t appeal to anyone, so be imaginative with your flavours to make veg more tempting to your kids. Get them to help you steam or boil and drain the greens, then get them to toss them in the lovely lemony dressing. You might think it odd to dress vegetables like a salad, but believe us the dressing will be absorbed into the hot greens, adding flavour and making them much more exciting to a child than just your average green vegetable.
Hopefully your kids will be so happy with what they have achieved they will be excited to taste it too, but it’s not always that easy! Kids love their food to be arranged nicely on the plate, so make it look fun and make sure the portion size is manageable. It’s important not to force your kids to eat their greens, but it is equally important to encourage them to try. We always ask the children we work with to try just one bite of a food to see if they like it. If they don’t, fair enough, but it’s important to praise them for trying. Depending on their age, children sometimes need to try a food 8 to 15 times before they start to like it, so keep persevering. More often than not you will catch a child taking one very unsure initial bite, only to find them five minutes later asking for seconds!