Curtis Stone: How I get my kids to eat their vegetables

Getting kids to eat their greens is a problem that parents have battled with for decades. There's a good chance you were once guilty of turning your nose up at the food on your own plate! But, a new approach might be the answer to the age-old problem...

Chef Curtis Stone clearly has a passion for food, but his two sons, Emerson, four and Hudson, seven, are just like all the other kids their age, who may not want to eat everything you put in front of them. "As a parent myself I am right in the middle of that world - and I have been for some time," he says.

Coles' new Rainbow Challenge initiative has launched, where the emphasis is on getting kids to eat a wider range of fruits and veggies - but because that isn't always easy - Curtis shares a look inside his own life with the tips and tricks he uses to get his sons to eat a varied diet.

Start them young

Sadly, there's no scientific answer for this issue - it doesn't matter who you are or what you like to eat, your kids might be resistant to trying new foods. Curtis advises starting this food trial process as soon as you can - while they're still eating puree - to get them used to different flavours and textures. 

Reap the rewards

You might think that having a dad for a chef means Curtis' children don't have problems with food - but you'd be mistaken. "I have one child who is more fussy than the other, and at the start, I was very embarrassed about it!" he confesses.

"But one thing I did start with him when he would try a new food was a sticker chart. That's actually where the idea for the Rainbow Challenge came from." He also says being proud of the fact they tried something new is important for positive reinforcement.

Curtis and sons Emerson and Hudson

Change your approach

"I had an interesting experience with my older son," he shares. "He choked on a piece of food and then wouldn't eat for a few days after that as he was scared to put something in his mouth. Not even chocolate or ice cream worked! I was worried, but the specialist told me he eventually will eat, and won't starve himself. And he did. But it got me thinking about how we are always on at our kids - almost forcing them - to eat."

Curtis believes taking the drama out of dinner time and not having an 'eat at all costs' attitude might help kids learn that the food you've cooked is what they need to be eating. "When one of my kids doesn't want to eat something I say, 'sure, that's fine.' But when it comes to the next meal, they'll be served the same thing, and sure enough they get hungry and they eat," he says.

Positive temptation

Create opportunities for eating without causing too much attention to what you're doing and removing the options around eating.

"When my kids get home from school I don't ask them if they're hungry or if they want a snack, I just do it and put something at their eye level," Curtis says. "It might be as simple as a cut up orange or some hummus and carrot sticks and I've found that invariably, they walk over and stick it in their mouth."

Get them acquainted

While we have all tried hiding veggies in a spag bol with some success, Curtis recommends trying a new approach in addition to what we're doing, getting kids to really understand what they're eating.

"This Rainbow Challenge is all about getting kids to interact with fruit and vegetables, getting them to pick them up and smell them... because the more they are used to the texture and smell the better they are around them," he says. 

If you have the space, a veggie patch may also be a great way to boost interest. "My kids grew up in a veggie garden and we normalise things by seeing them," says Curtis. "The most exciting thing for them is getting to pull out any vegetable that grows underground. Like carrots, radishes, beets and kholrabi. They love it!"

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