It is hard enough for most adults to eat their daily servings of vegetables and fruit, but parents and others who care for children have an added responsibility. The USDA’s My Plate program recommends that children get from two to five cups of fruits and vegetables a day – every day – depending on their age. That may seem daunting, but even if your kids won’t eat vegetables and fruit now, with patience, they can learn to love produce – here’s how!
Be a good role model
If you want your kids to eat their vegetables and fruit, you’ve got to set a good example. If kids see you eating, and enjoying, produce at every meal, they are much more likely to be willing to try produce themselves. (And if the thought of eating vegetables fills you with dread, don’t worry: you can learn to like vegetables.)
Be laid back
You may think you need to lay down the law and insist that your kids eat their vegetables. Experts say, however, forcing kids to eat doesn’t work and it may lead them to have problems down the road with food. Instead, if your kids won’t eat vegetables try offering your children choices and ask them to try just one bite.
Researchers found that you have to introduce a new vegetable or fruit a dozen times – or more – until kids are willing to give it a try. Even if your toddler responds with horror the first time you offer strawberries or cauliflower, don’t give up. If you keep serving produce, eventually your kids will come around.
Involve your kids in the process of choosing and preparing food; kids of all ages can help in the kitchen. Whether they choose the produce, wash salad greens, or sprinkle cheese on top of vegetable lasagna, they’ll be much more excited about eating fruits and vegetables if they have a role in preparing them.
Be creative and fun
The way you prepare and present produce makes a world of difference in how your children feel about it. A serving of broccoli that has been boiled until it has turned grey, for example, will not be nearly as popular as lightly cooked broccoli served with dipping sauce – and researchers found that children were 80% more likely to eat a vegetable if it was served with dipping sauce. Think outside the box when it comes to preparing and presenting produce.
If all else fails, you can try subterfuge. Clever chefs and parents have come up with some wonderfully devious ways to add vegetables to meals – everything from adding pureed vegetables to pizza sauce to sneaking an extra veggie serving into meatloaf.
These tips will help you get started, and there are many resources that will help you introduce more produce into meals; here are a few to help you get started. The MyPlate website has resources for children and families. For more great resources, including recipes, try Fruits & Veggies – More Matters, another helpful site.