by Janelle Koszarek, MBA, Director of Sustainability & Community Engagement
Getting kids to eat vegetables can often feel like an impossible task. Mealtimes are critical bonding opportunities, and putting the focus on picky eating adds unnecessary stress. These ideas from Janelle Koszarek, SRV’s Director of Sustainability and Community Engagement, will help parents and caregivers introduce more veggies into everyday eating without the tears.
Jannelle Koszarek runs the Farm to Fork Food and Education Program at SRV. She plans the nourishing and healthful lunches that are prepared and served to children each day, and through cooking, gardening and other activities, teaches them what it means to continue the cycle of sustainable food systems. Jannelle’s daughter Ava is graduating from SRV’s 6th grade this year.
5 Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables
- Hors D’oeuvres – Many of the teachers at SRV start lunch service with cut veggies at the center of the community shared lunch table. Kids eat more for lunch when recess is right before as opposed to speeding through the meal to get outside. Since they’ve worked up an appetite, having veggies immediately available allows students to dive in while the main course is being prepared and served. This same method can be applied to the dinner table.
- Involve Kids in the Process – The more kids can take ownership and pride in their food, the more likely they will be to try what they cook or harvest. Not to mention the fine motor skills involved in peeling, chopping and mixing! You can also try watching cooking shows, especially kids cooking shows. This will help introduce new recipes and vegetables to your kids and hopefully allow them the opportunity to explore and experience food differently. Ava and I love Top Chef and Top Chef Jr.
- Smoothies! – Many of our SRV kids love smoothies! When we make them together in the kitchen at school, we come up with names for them based on their color or what time of year it is. This October, one Middle Circle (3rd & 4th grade) group named their Kale smoothie “Green Monster Mash”. I let them put in as much kale as they wanted, and they wanted A LOT. When we blended it, it tasted like a straight shot of kale, so we added more yogurt and banana to sweeten it. Some kids chose to combine the two batches, and some did a comparison taste test. Either way they drank all of it, gave it a thumbs up, and consumed one of the best leafy greens out there!
- Eat Together – Modeling good food habits can have a big impact over time. The grownups at your table should start each meal with a salad or load up the veggies on your plate first and at the largest quantity. Letting your plate reflect the expectation and standard will help encourage your kids to try it as well – they are your biggest fan after all! I encourage you to talk about food with kids like the teachers do at lunch with the daily “Food for Thought”. The more kids understand about food, the more they start to think about the choices they are making. For example, discussing why eating carbs before a basketball game can help your body stay energized, or protein after gymnastics can help muscles recover and not be so sore.
- Mix It Up – Try eating seasonal foods by going to a farmer’s market or joining a local CSA (SRV is part of Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op: www.lancasterfarmfresh.com). There are so many cool fruits and veggies available that you just don’t see at the grocery store. Trying new things and learning together can make food exciting. Your kids may even know about some fruits and veggies that you don’t (ask them about ground cherries and kiwi berries we eat at school!)