How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables: Make Dinner Time a Game

January 20, 2015 7:00 pm / Posted in , , ,

Healthy Kids Meals

How Do I Get My Kids to Eat Vegetables with Dinner?

Every weekday at 4pm I make dinner and turn on the TV for the kids to watch. I usually cook something quick, and majority of the time the kids don’t eat the vegetables. My daughter is 4 and my son is 2. I feel bad because the kids don’t eat enough veggies and spend a good amount of time watching TV in the evening.  This routine could be improved if I had a plan to get them into helping  make healthy kids meals as soon as we get home. That is why I came up with the idea of “gamifying” dinner time.

My goal with gamifying dinner time is to incorporate a fun dinner making activity with the kids and have them have them eat healthier  foods.  The experience of getting involved encourages them to finish their plates. Plus you get to spend quality time with them!

Making Silly Faces

In this task I chose to make silly faces by chopping up veggies in to different face-like shapes, spraying them with oil, adding salt, then placing them in the oven at 360 degrees. For hair I used black bean spaghetti and tomato sauce. This is a much higher protein pasta, but regular pasta is just as good.

Black Bean Spaghetti - Burke Cleland Ottawa Nutrition Coach

This is pretty straightforward, and not really all that appetizing. But remember, it’s not about the food, its the experience that’s going to get these little people to finish their plate.

Silly Faces Prep - Burke Cleland Ottawa Nutrition Coach

The Build Up

If you want them to get really excited about eating, then you’re going to have to build it up. It’s really simple, just start talking about it in advance and get excited yourself. After all, your kids are going to eat vegetables tonight!

Get Your Camera Out

I don’t know about you, but when my kids get their picture taken, they want to see it. When they’re making the dinner, take pictures of them, and while the food is cooking, show them what they looked like. This will add to the build-up factor and add more excitement to eating their vegetables.

Silly Faces - Burke Cleland Ottawa Nutrition Coach

The End Result

During dinnertime, they ate most of what was on their plates. This project exceeded my expectations in vegetable servings, and they were so pleasant – making faces, laughing and having a good time. What was really shocking was how cooperative they were later in the evening. Kids don’t like to be ignored, and the fact we could all do something as a family improved their moods. During cleanup, they just played on their own happily, while my wife and I had a somewhat quiet conversation.

Gloria and Rocco - Burke Cleland Ottawa Nutrition Coach

I made up a task log based on the quantity of veggies and time spent with kids. Also, a satisfaction scale based on how I felt the task went.

Dec. 10th Non-Gamified Dec. 15th Gamified Time
After school time with kids 1.5 hours 3 hours
Satisfaction of time spent 6 10
Amount of veggies 0-1 Gloria 3 kids fist fulls/Rocco 2 baby fist fulls
Satisfactory in veggie servings 2 10
Kids energy and happiness 6 Over 10
Evening kid cooperation 5 10
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