Getting kids to eat veggies is as easy as getting them to clean their rooms without asking about 500 times. That's right: not easy at all.
momlogic's Vivian: But yesterday, actress, mom of three and Hidden Valley Ranch spokeswoman Jennie Garth kicked off HVR's Love Your Veggies campaign and web series with "Veggie Central," an interactive event at Grand Central Station in New York City. Garth -- along with The Organic Gardener, Jeanne Pinsof Nolan -- gave demos to a group of schoolkids, graciously sharing laughs, signing autographs and patiently answering every question they had to ask. She then hunkered down to share her mommy how-tos and personal stories about how she "vegges out" with her kids with the likes of us.
First off, it's important to know that Garth actually practices what she preaches, having had her personal share of gardening experience. "My father-in-law, Peter's [Facinelli] dad, comes out every spring and helps us plant. It's not a huge garden, but we grow tomatoes and lettuce right in our front yard. I grew up on a farm where we grew a lot of our own food. The girls really like to get in there and get their hands in the dirt. It changes their perspective on vegetables and helps to get the vegetables into them."
She admits to her own challenges in getting her three daughters to eat their veggies.
Says Garth, "They're kids, and every five minutes, their tastes change. I served broccoli, and one of my daughters was like, 'Broccoli? I don't eat broccoli,' -- when she ate it last week. I try and go with the flow and focus on the importance of taking care of themselves. When they reach a certain age -- 10, 11 or 12 -- you can hand over the choices to them a little bit more. I always say, 'Do you want to be healthy and fit, or do you want to be unhealthy and have no energy?' I just give them simple choices and let them start making those choices slowly. My daughter [Luca] is 12, and is an athlete. She's involved in every sport the school provides. She loves junk like gnocchi and I tell her, 'If you eat gnocchi, bad things are going to happen.' We joke about it, but I just try and be as real with my kids as I can without giving them any kind of body complex, or emphasizing diets or fads. We really try not to do that and make it about being healthy, fit and having a lot of energy -- teaching them straight-up about that stuff."
She encounters the same challenges we do when it comes to packing a healthy school lunch, but says her strategy is removing the less-healthy options her kids might pull toward. "If they want processed food, they'll find a way to get it from their friends," she says. "But I think if you give them fewer options and less sweet, processed, packaged junk food, they will eat what you give them. Give them a fruit, a vegetable and a protein, whether it's a sandwich, tofu or cheese sticks -- something."
Another great way to show your kid that veggies are tasty? Garth is a big believer in the family dinner -- even with all the traveling she and her husband ["Twilight" and "Nurse Jackie" actor Peter Facinelli] have to do. Says Garth, "Family dinners, I think, are a lost art because our society is so busy. But it's a no-brainer. In our house, we have family dinner together every night, whether we have to wait for my oldest to get home from her sports, or if my husband's across the country shooting something, we'll Skype him and he'll eat with us. It's not even about trying, it's about doing it."
And finally, when it comes to cultivating a love of vegetables, sometimes leading by example does work. "The other day I made spinach for myself -- I sauteed it," Garth says. "I was eating it, and my 7-year-old asked if she could try it. And she loved it! She ate the whole thing. It's weird -- you have to keep trying. Keep veggies accessible and eventually they'll try them."