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Healthy Harold's 6 tips to get your kids to eat their veggies

If you grew up in Australia, you’ll likely have fond memories of school visits from the Life Ed van and its friendly giraffe, Healthy Harold. More than 40 years later and the iconic giraffe is still teaching valuable health lessons to children across the country – and that’s a mission Sanitarium is proud to support

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Life Ed to hear from Healthy Harold on how we can get kids to eat more serves of veggies. Sadly 95% of Aussie kids aren’t getting enough. We all need to try for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day. On average kids usually consume 2 serves of veggies each day. Research shows that for each serving of veg (up to 5), there is a decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers. Even just one more serve of veg, makes a difference.

Healthy Harold’s number one tip? Aim for just 1 more serve. We know that trying to make changes to your kids’ diet can be challenging, so start small and build up from there. And, we’ve got the perfect guide to help you get started. 

Download our new FREE digital activity book – Veggie Quest with Healthy Harold! It will help kids learn about the superpower of veggies complete with flavoursome and fun veggie-packed recipes. It’ll have the kids munching on more veg in no time 

Need more tips to add an extra serve of veggies to your child’s plate? Try these tried and tested tips from Healthy Harold himself.  

1. Chop, chop

Get your kids into the kitchen! Studies show that a great way to get kids to eat more veggies – and actually enjoy them – is to get them to help with meal preparation. Children learn so much through their senses, especially through their little fingers that like to touch and play with everything. You can encourage this exploration by offering finger foods and veggies cut into different shapes for them to pick up and enjoy. You could even try using vegetable cutters to offer veggies in all kinds of fun shapes.   

2. Grow your own

There’s nothing Healthy Harold loves more than veggies straight from the garden. If you’ve got the time and space, you can start at the very beginning and get your child involved in growing some veggies. Learning to grow your own veggies has been shown to increase children’s willingness to try vegetables and come back for more. If you don’t have a back yard, try your balcony, windowsill, or get involved in a local community garden. Why not start with growing Healthy Harold’s favourite veggie – carrots!  

3. Flavour up

Children's taste buds are constantly evolving and are initially much more sensitive than those of adults, especially of bitter tastes. Start by offering familiar vegetables your child enjoys, and gradually introduce one new or "challenging" vegetable at each meal to help them become more familiar. Don’t worry if they don’t eat it the first time – research shows you may need to offer a new food up to 10 times before kids will accept it. Try pairing with familiar flavours you know they enjoy like dips, or in one of their favourite meals. Avoid overcooked, soggy vegetables; instead, make them appealing and flavoursome by adding lemon or fragrant spices. Experiment with different cooking and serving methods, such as stir-frying or roasting to change up the flavours and textures.

4. Every meal of the day  

Most Aussie kids – and adults too – only get their veggies in at dinner time. It’s really hard to try and pack all 5 serves into one meal. One of Healthy Harold’s favourite tips is to try and find ways to incorporate veggies into breakfast, lunch, snack time and even tasty treats. Try some of the tasty ideas in Healthy Harold’s book, like Weet-Bix veggie balls for snack time.   

Not sure what a serve of veggies looks like? Well, it’s about 75 grams and can look like the following:   

  • ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (think broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin) 

  • ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils  

  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables 

  • ½ cup sweet corn 

  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava) 

  • 1 medium tomato 

5. Self-serve

Challenge your kids to serve themselves the ideal healthy dinner plate. Teach them to divide their plate into balanced healthy portions. Half of the plate should be filled with vegetables, one quarter should be dedicated to plant proteins like legumes and tofu, meats such as poultry and fish, and the remaining quarter should be reserved for wholegrains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa. By visually dividing their plates children can easily learn how to create balanced meals that are nutritious and appealing, and they’ll learn to expect (and hopefully love!) some veggies on every plate. 

6. Eat a rainbow  

Play a game with your kids to see who can eat a rainbow at dinner time by encouraging them to include as many coloured veggies as possible on their plate. There are five main colour categories to include - purple + blue, red, orange + yellow, green and white. Each colour carries its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called ‘phytochemicals.’ All these veggies work together to form the ultimate disease fighting team – or as Healthy Harold likes to call them, your very own Phyt Club! 

A varied colourful diet is great for gut health – an important part of your body’s. Plus, there’s growing evidence that a healthy gut also supports brain health and can help improve things like mood, mental health and even memory.   

Download Veggie Quest with Healthy Harold today to help you get one more veggie serve in a day.