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Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Let’s face it. Kids are the ultimate skeptics, especially when it comes to upbeat songs about broccoli, assurances that peas and carrots are the very reason people grow strong and tall, or stories about Popeye’s spinach dependency.

Recently, however, research has shed some light on why sometimes even our most inventive tactics don’t seem to make healthful food more appealing to kids.

Don’t tell your children it’s good for them

According to a study from the University of Chicago, children are actually more likely to reject food when they know it’s good for them, and all our cajoling often only strengthens their resolve and will make them not eat whatever it is we want them to try.

“You influence what your child eats by choosing to serve certain foods at the table. Adding reasons and trying to convince them to eat often doesn’t work and can actually backfire,” says lead researcher Professor Ayelet Fishbach.

She explains that children seem to think that food can’t serve two purposes: it can’t be healthy and taste good at the same time.

So if you tell your kids that carrots are good for their eyes or will help them read better, it actually makes them less enthusiastic about eating them because they feel that if carrots are so good for them, they can’t possibly be delicious, too.

It’s better to say nothing than to praise the food for its healthiness

The children participating in the study listened to stories about a girl who was having a snack, and were then given a snack of their own. Each time the story presented a certain food as being good for them, the children ate less of it.

For instance, kids rated crackers as less tasty and ate fewer of them when the story mentioned that crackers would help them count to 100.

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So what’s the takeaway for parents?

“Just serve healthy food and make sure all you serve is healthy,” says Fishbach. “You can say that it’s yummy, but we didn’t see that it helps beyond serving the food and saying nothing at all, although it doesn’t hurt either.”

Of course, it’s only natural to want to encourage your kids to eat healthy foods, and your first instinct will probably be to tell them about all the great vitamins and nutrients that will benefit them.

But, if you frequently find yourself engaged in mealtime struggles, a better approach would be to simply bite your tongue and serve that spinach or cabbage without praising its healthiness.

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Be a role model

Another thing to be aware of is that children tend to be very responsive to role models, so when they see their parents eating and enjoying something, they will be more open to eating it as well.

“Serving a personal example is great. Your child will mimic you,” Fishbach explains.

Phil Casey, trainer and assessor of Allied Health courses at Open Colleges and father of two, agrees that giving an example is important, and adds that reducing snacks between meals and giving mealtimes structure can also help kids to form healthier eating habits.

“I cannot stress the importance of family mealtimes enough,” he says. “Giving structure to mealtimes is a good tactic, as children like routine.”

He also warns that;

“Once kids have finished, there should be no coming back as this can generate behaviour that is not ideal at mealtimes, as they will feel that they can just pick at their food and it will still be there later.”

So, in short, don’t make a big deal about serving healthy food, If you want your kids to eat their greens, just serve them and be a role model by eating and enjoying them yourself without going into detail about the nutritional value.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and if you’re already extolling the benefits of broccoli or cabbage before it even hits their plate, they’re going to assume that there is a catch.

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More by this author

Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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