The TV ad campaign that casts veggies as villains may be fun, but there are better ways to encourage kids to eat healthily
Vegetables aren’t healthy, tasty, fun or even very colourful any more, kids. No. They’re evil – and they’re coming to get you! So says an advert on ITV and backed by the UK’s leading supermarkets and Birds Eye, with endorsements from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver.
The 60-second advert is set up like an action film, in which a storm of vegetable baddies invade – torpedoing carrots, a car pelted by rogue brussels sprouts. The nation’s children are then called upon to “Eat them to defeat them”. The campaign, by ad agency Adam & EveDBB (of John Lewis Christmas advert fame) has been given £2m of airtime on ITV and will feature in cinemas and on billboards. But do we really want children to view vegetables as bad guys? Surely there are better ways to get reluctant children to eat their greens? Here’s how.
1. Be casual
Never tell, encourage, pester or bribe your children to eat vegetables. If you do, you’re simply inviting them into a power battle. You may get a mouthful of sweetcorn or a few pieces of carrot inside them, but it’s a short-term fix. Instead, just put the vegetables on their plates and act as if you couldn’t care less whether they eat them or not. When you make a child eat vegetables, they perceive you as the winner and them as the loser, so when they have the freedom to choose whether to eat them or not, they will generally choose to win by not eating them.
2. Exposure is key
Keep presenting a wide variety of vegetables boldly and proudly – whether they eat them or not. If vegetables always come in a squeezy pouch or hidden in a pasta sauce, you can’t expect them to eat a plate of courgettes or swede when they come eye to eye with them in the flesh. Exposure to vegetables is a vital first step in making your child comfortable and familiar with them. You might have to offer them one particular vegetable many times before they are receptive to the idea of eating it. It’s worth the effort.
3. Keep their preferences as preferences.
Just because you have noticed they prefer sweetcorn to peas, don’t stop giving them peas. Otherwise, before you know it, those preferences will have solidified into likes and don’t likes.
4. Lessen the competition
Present them a mini-starter of raw vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, olives, tomatoes and peppers in a ramekin or dipping-sauce bowl before dinner while they are still playing or watching TV. Not only is this when they are at their hungriest,