Tips For Encouraging the ‘Yucky Greens’

Courgette, picky eaters, nutrition, food, greens, yucky greens, paediatric die
Courgettes – Encouraging the ‘Yucky Greens’ by your London paediatric children’s dietitian


This is probably something that mums ask me all the time.  Each time we end up developing individually catered action plans, but here are a couple of tips to help you get started.

It may seem like a luxury to have your kids enjoy eating their greens, but it’s a task easier to achieve than you think.  Before you roll your eyes and shut me down completely, here’s a true story.  My girlfriend recently gushed in joy that her 15 month old boy finally ate spinach after months of battles with the greens.

He would hopelessly throw his vegetables on the floor for his own pleasure (much to the dismay of his tired and annoyed mum).  Don’t get me wrong, this little boy has a good appetite for food and gives me the much needed work-out every time I lift him in my arms.  Growth and weight gain, not the issue. 

So what’s the problem?  Well it’s that moment in every mum’s life when her son or daughter starts refusing their greens.  How do you cope with it?

My chosen weapon of attack is known as the disappearing act.  If you are missing the trick, all that you need to do is to puree the green item and mix it in with the main meal perhaps as a sauce.  For example, my Creamy Mushroom And Asparagus Risotto With Spinach worked a treat and this is exactly what my girlfriend did!  The little one hardly noticed that the spinach was included in the dish and devoured it like magic.  Just remember for children under 1 year of age, skip ordinary stock and use herbs or baby stock instead.

When oceans of tears are the last thing that you want to deal with after a hard day of work and hours in the kitchen, then this is one practical suggestion that can be incorporated on a daily basis, when you need to ride through the temporary phase of ‘I will not eat the yucky greens’.

Never force your child to eat something that they don’t like as you run the risk of feeding aversions.  Instead, encourage them as much as you can and try the refused food a few days later. 

You could try presenting the same dish with the spinach cooked in its ‘whole’ form  once he or she starts eating it in the pureed or saucy version.  Don’t even mention what’s on the plate, keep the conversation light over dinner and remove the plate without commenting once the meal is over; even if only tiny  tiny bites are eaten.  Chances are that with time, you will have dinner completed in thirty minutes fuss free and you’ll have your secluded moment with that irresistible new book that you’ve been dying to read before bed.

Did you know that cucumber is one of the easiest things for children to eat?  It’s relatively plain, has a pleasing texture and has a high water content which the kids will love during summer.  As a pre-dinner snack, cut up cucumber sticks along with the children’s favourite veges for them to help themselves to.  You could seat them at the table and leave a small plate in front of them and then seriously, just leave them to it. 

No need to say a word.  Chances are, they will enjoy picking up the cut up vegetables and will help themselves without any encouragement from you.  Soon, you will be bonding over greens with your little ones.  Go on, give it a try!  You have nothing to lose.

For the determined wee souls, consider the input from a children’s dietitian.  Paediatric dietitians may suggest starting a reward chart.  Rewards can be anything from trips to the park, a new toy, extra story time or play dates with a friend.  Try to keep these rewards non-food related.  Some psychologists warn against using rewards to encourage behaviour in children, as they may become less likely to eat those foods willingly once the rewards are removed.  My advice, use rewards that can be incorporated as part of your daily routine such as trips to the park or reading a story.  Words of praise go a long way and something tangible such as stickers work well with some children.  For others keep meal times relatively low pressure, offer plenty of praise and consider lunch dates with their friends.  Never underestimate the power of friends eating vegetables.

Finally other parents always have plenty of creative ideas for encouraging greens.  How do you encourage your children to eat their greens?  Do share, I love reading all of your stories.

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