I hear from many parents tales of dinner time battles with their kids about eating their vegetables. This frustrating scene plays over and over each night with parents trying every tactic possible (bargaining, pleading, demanding, “no dessert if you don’t eat your veggies!”).
As parents the concern for children to eat a healthy meal comes from a good place. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that not only help children’s development but have also been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. So, why do some kids refuse? Well, some veggies are bitter, dark leafy greens I’m looking at you, some may not look appealing, others are new to kids who would rather have something they are familiar with.
The good news is if you are concerned about your kids vegetable and fruit intake, you are already on the right track by reading these tips. And, think back to your childhood, what vegetable or fruit did you dislike then that you like now? I’m sure there’s a few!
- Autonomy is everything (to kiddos) – How many times as your child urged you to let them pick out the shirt they are going to wear or demanded they can do it themselves (whatever the “it” might be for the day)? In the spirit of autonomy, the next time you go to the grocery let your child choose one fruit or vegetable they want to try.
- Go Raw and Colorful – Slice a few vegetables and serve them raw for kids to try. Even adults don’t want to eat mushy green beans.
- All about the DIP! Who doesn’t love some ranch or hummus to dip fresh veg into? For fruit try chocolate hummus for a new, protein and fiber-packed dip.
- Let their inner Chef Shine – Engaging children in the cooking process has been shown to create a greater acceptance of eating a variety of foods.
- Keep them in plain site – As a mom and dietitian, I’m not a big fan of hiding foods. My kids always want to know what is in a dish I make. Plus, being open about what you’ve cooked and why, creates conversation and an opportunity to discuss the benefits of fruits and veggies with your children.
- Talk Up the Benefits – When I go into schools to talk about how great whole foods are I explain it so that kids can understand. For example, blueberries help our brains and our memory, Vitamin C in strawberries helps keep our skin healthy and helps to heal our cuts and scrapes, Vitamin D in spinach helps keep our bones strong.
- Set the Example – Yes this means you as the adult need to eat your fruits and veggies too! Kids want to be just like their parents.
- Smoothie for the Win – Smoothies are a simple and fun way to add fruit and vegetables to a child’s eating pattern. And hey, if you let them pick the ingredients (with a few helpful suggestions) they are likely more willing to try it.
- Put Them on Repeat – Exposure is key when trying to get kids and adults to like a particular food. In fact, it often takes 10-15 tries to really determine if you like a food or not.
- Take the Pressure Off – Encourage kiddos to try fruits and veggies without pressure and fear of repercussions. Taking the pressure off, (no more bargaining or pleading!) takes stress off the entire family meal.