Preventing obesity: get children to eat their greens!

Getting children to eat more vegetables, yes, it’s become a decades-long cliché. As a great source of fibre and antioxidants, both of which promote good health and healthy weight, it’s not surprising. Vegetables are also full of flavour, freshness and great taste – and it is here that prevention of obesity can really begin.

Yet getting little ones to put down the crisps and chocolate and pick up the chicory and carrots can seem an insurmountable struggle. So, what can you do to instil healthy eating habits in your sons and daughters which will stay with them throughout their lives? Here are our four top tips:

1. Lead by example
If children see you regularly enjoying your vegetables, they are far less likely to raise their own objections to eating them…because the greatest influence on a child in the early developmental years is their parents. As toddlers learn all the time by watching and imitating adults with whom they spend time, it makes sense to include eating habits in this.

2. Starting early, starting small
Getting children to acquire a taste for vegetables needs to start as soon as they begin eating solid food. For toddlers, present vegetables in tiny pieces and in a variety of colours, so they look as attractive and easy to eat as possible. Offer rewards for trying them. How many young children can resist a tiny piece of carrot when it comes with the promise of a shiny sticker?

3. Setting the tone
On the theme of reward, offer fruits and vegetables that children can enjoy as a reward for good behaviour, or a tasty snack, rather than sweets and chocolate. Subliminally, children will then come to associate healthy food with feeling good about themselves.

4. Hiding the evidence
If all else fails, there’s always the tried and tested technique of hiding vegetables by puréeing into a soup or a casserole, and slowly increasing quantities as children learn they actually taste pretty good. This isn’t as duplicitous as it might seem, as you’re simply encouraging your children to discover what you already know: vegetables can be pretty delicious.

Your children are far likely to thank you later on in life for putting time and energy into getting them to eat vegetables than deal with the effects of obesity when they are older and suffering.

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