Whether your child is a picky eater or champion plate-licker, every parent struggles to include more vegetables into little diets. Nine out of ten children do not consume enough vegetables, and few get their recommended five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. While broccoli may never truly compete with brownies in your child’s eyes, there are ways to make fruits and vegetables more enticing.
Serve them first.
Kids are more likely to eat vegetables when they’re truly hungry. Offer vegetables first or put them out on the counter while you’re preparing the rest of the meal. In this case, hunger really is the best seasoning!
Serve them often.
Make fruits and vegetables a regular fixture in your kitchen. Serve them over and over…and over again to foster familiarity and fondness. Remember you can serve veggies any time your child requests food—not just at meals. Replace traditional starchy kids’ snacks made from potatoes, added sugars and unnatural fillers with truly healthy alternatives like fresh veggies and dips or packaged veggie snacks that have simple ingredients.
We all know kids can be fickle—loving something one day and hating it the next. If they refuse veggies, simply remind them they have liked the item in the past, encourage them to try them again and don’t force the issue. Children need to try foods at least 10-15 separate times to begin liking them, so stick with it!
Change it up.
Vary both the types of fruits and vegetables you offer and the methods you use to prepare them. Changing the shapes and sizes of servings can help pique little imaginations; smaller versions of bigger servings, such as baby carrots, baby peppers, olives and sliced vegetable sticks can make a drab plate exciting for little fingers.
Variety is good for both your children’s experience as well as their stomachs. While raw fruits and veggies have unique benefits, we can consume more cooked vegetables than raw ones, and vegetables release different vitamins and minerals when cooked.
Dress up plain vegetables with extra ingredients you know your kids love. Even with most additions, vegetables will still be better for them than anything else they could eat. Don’t be afraid to add extra elements to make them more enticing when needed.
Kids love dips, so consider pairing veggies with a favorite hummus, yogurt or bean dip. Add oil and salt to cooked veggies for added taste and easier digestion.
Empower your kids.
One of the best ways to encourage healthy eating is to help kids feel more in control of the process. Take them shopping or to the farmers market and let them pick out the veggies that go in your cart. Once you get home, let them help prepare and cook their selections. Older kids can take the lead in the kitchen, while younger kids can help arrange the plates, wash fruits and de-stem leafy greens. Getting your kids involved will make healthy eating less of a battle and more of a fun family activity.
Noha Waibsnaider is the founder of Peeled Snacks, a maker of organic fruit and vegetable snacks. Committed to organic, clean food, Peeled Snacks makes a variety of vegetable and fruit snacks available in Whole Foods, Target, Amazon.com and grocery stores. Learn more at www.peeledsnacks.com