It’s the age-old parenting conundrum: How do you get kids to eat their veggies? You can sneak spinach into smoothies and bake sweet potatoes into brownies. You can even give bribery a whirl. But, ultimately, children should have a healthy relationship with the food they eat, whether it’s a super-food salad or the occasional junk-food treat.

We know that growing bodies and minds need nourishment and nutritious meals and snacks are an essential part of our day at Momentum Montessori. Whether it’s roasted veggies and marinated tempeh for lunch or mid-morning apple slices and baby carrots, our students are fuelled with the whole foods they need in order to thrive.

Nutrient-rich foods provide kids with the energy and focus they need to get the most out of their day at Momentum, whether they’re learning a new language, painting a self-portrait, perfecting their somersaults or making music with their recorder. Students and teachers enjoy meals together to create a home-away-from-home environment where children are encouraged to practise their p’s and q’s and everyone has fun. 

Whatever is on the menu, our students always have a variety of organic, non-GMO fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and protein-rich foods on their plates, with plenty of vegetarian options. We want the healthy choice to be their first choice. 

“Nutrients from different foods are important for various functions of the body. They give kids energy to get through their day, and to make sure they’re sleeping well and able to focus,” says Aviva Allen, kids’ nutritionist and founder of Healthy Moms Toronto. “Leading by example is one of the most important things parents can do to encourage healthy eating habits. If Dad doesn’t eat his vegetables, it can be hard to convince the kids to eat theirs. Eating is a learned behaviour,” she says.

We asked Aviva for her top tips to encourage healthy eating habits in kids. Here’s what she had to say:

Eat together as a family. Children learn from the people around them and more and more kids are eating without an adult at the table enjoying the same meal. Make it a time to share stories about your day and reconnect as a family.

Serve food family-style. Rather than plating food for them, let kids take the amount they want – they’ll be more likely to eat it all. Giving them choices, such as broccoli or carrots, also ups the odds that their veggies won’t be left on the plate.

Don’t get fancy. “Don’t spend too much time building up an artistic creation, because if they don’t want to try it you’ll only end up more frustrated,” she says. Every child will have preferences. Make what you’re making, put it out and try to engage your kids and make meal time fun. Think of foods you know they like and do a variation, like cutting sweet potato into sticks, rather than rounds, or slicing up a different colour pepper.

Try not to sneak food into meals. “Kids will often realize that something is different, and you want to establish trust,” she says. Be upfront about what’s for dinner. If you add something new to a smoothie and they don’t like it, tell them there was a change and don’t force it again.

Let them be part of the process. Meal times can be busy, but when the opportunity arises, find jobs that they can handle easily, like washing veggies or picking out things at the supermarket. “The more they are involved, the more likely they are to at least try it.”