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“Can bribery – or, if you prefer, a reward system – encourage kids to love vegetables and help combat obesity?” asks an article in The Guardian. Do we really need to resort to this?

It’s not just bribery either… There is now a whole industry focused solely on ‘hidden vegetables’ and sneaky ways to get vegetables into meals.

Look, I get it. As a parent of 2 children I know that it can sometimes be a challenge getting them to try certain foods – something I’ve actually found is made worse once they hit school age and are influenced by their peers.

I remember when my son was young and he would only eat a very limited number of vegetables. I found it so frustrating, especially when eating out. One thing he also enjoyed was broccoli, so I decided to get creative.

Suddenly we had white broccoli…

Ok – it was cauliflower but saying it was white broccoli meant he would eat it. Once I got away with that one I introduced him to flat broccoli (cabbage) and so he was eat most of the vegetables I put in front of him.

I agree with psychologists who argue that coercion such as the classic warning to “finish your greens if you want ice cream” can have longstanding negative effects on a child’s relationship with food. I seriously think bribery with cash or rewards is a bad idea.

The best solution I’ve found is not being creative with what foods are called either…

“Is broccoli really so terrible that it must be concealed from innocent minds?” asks food writer Bee Wilson. “A far cleverer thing would be to help children learn to become adults who choose vegetables consciously, of their own accord.”

The Guardian asks “how on earth do we do that?”

I believe the answer is teaching children to cook.

Again, when my son was young (he is now 17) I remember he point blank refused to eat cottage pie and yet he loved burger and chips. The ingredients are almost the same, so why would he eat one meal and not the other?

One weekend we made his favourite meal at the time, burger and chips, from scratch. He helped to prepare every ingredient that went into it. The following weekend he saw the same ingredients in the kitchen but we made something different… yes, the pie. Because he helped make it and knew the ingredients were the same he ate it too.

My experience is that children are much more likely to try, eat AND ENJOY food they help prepare.

(PS – kids love juicing too!)

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