I’ve been a paediatric dietitian for the past 20 yrs which means I’ve spent most of my adult life talking to parents about feeding their kids. Without a doubt I’d say the thing that stresses parents out the most, is the fact that their kids won’t eat vegetables. And I totally get it because my own kids are often reluctant vegetable eaters too.
What I know though as a dietitian, is that fruit and cereal products (so other plant based foods) have many of the same nutrients as vegetables. If your kids eat these foods, it’s unlikely they have any nutrient deficiencies (although possibly their fibre intake is a bit low).
I am huge on role modelling the behaviour you want to see (and the evidence supports this too). This means that even though I know my kids might not eat the vegetables, they certainly get served them. When you fall into the habit of stopping offering foods that you’ve just accepted your kids don’t like, then your kids miss out on the opportunity to learn about and explore these foods. You want your kids to see vegetables appearing as many times as possible across the whole day so that they recognise that they are part of our diet (whether they chose to eat them or not!). And of course you need to be eating them in front of your kids too - don’t expect them to do something that you don’t do yourself! I truly believe that if you set the foundations for good eating habits during childhood ( serving mostly home cooked, fresh meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and quality proteins with smatterings of convenience foods as required) your kids will transition into adulthood recognising that this is the diet they will follow.
With that said, here are some ideas to serve up vegetables in the lunch box. The beauty of our lunch box is that it keeps all the food separate. Many kids are prone to finding their whole lunch box ruined if the cucumber has dared come into contact with their favourite crackers! The smallest compartment of our lunch box is also ideal as a “food exploration” zone. Use it to expose kids to small amounts of new vegetables that they might not have tried or just haven’t learnt to like yet. Always keep your offerings of new and non preferred foods to very small portions. This is much less likely to overwhelm your child and they may find a really small offering manageable. As always - don’t put any pressure on your child to eat the food you have provided and try not to comment on what does or does not come home from school. Keep your child’s lunch box a judgement free zone!
Sides & Snacks:
- Veggie sticks (carrot, cucumber, capsicum, celery)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado (add a squeeze of lemon to stop it going brown)
- Tinned or roasted chickpeas or fava beans
- Vegetable and boccocini Kebabs
- Use vegetable based dips like babganoush, guacamole, hummus and serve with veggie sticks or your child’s favourite crackers
- Try a smoothie with added vegetables - See our boosted banana smoothie for a child friendly idea to get started, you can send it to school in our insulated drink bottles (the vacuum seal means it won’t go brown and it will stay cold for the whole school day).
- Add to your sweet baking (don’t try and hide it from your kids, show them that vegetables can be served and cooked in many different ways) - try our Apple Crumble Muffins with Zucchini or our Black Bean Brownies
- Try a chocolate avocado mousse for a sweet surprise (serve it in our large snack pot)
Main Event Ideas
- Wraps or sandwiches with lettuce, grated carrot, cucumber etc…
- Frittata - use any selection of vegetables that your kids already accept
- Cold rolls - thinly sliced carrot or cucumber works well here
- Cold pasta salad with sweet corn kernels, grated carrot and spring onion
- 3 Bean salad
- Send left over nacho or taco meat loaded with veggies in a thermos and get your kids to build their own taco at school or dip the chips into the meat
- Quesadillas with black beans and cheddar cheese
- Savoury muffins
- Savoury fritters - pretty much any vegetables you have left in your crisper work in a recipe like this. Mix with tasty grated cheese or feta and some extra taste
- Cold sausage rolls - you can try vegetarian options made with lentils, or traditional beef with added veggies like carrot, pumpkin or potato
- Cold Pizza - choose toppings your kids already prefer or try mushrooms, baby spinach, sun-dried tomato, olives, capsicum and tomato.
- Sushi - cucumber/avocado and tuna is a favourite here