Being a nutritionist means I know the importance of my children eating a variety of fruits and veggies. But having them actually do it can sometimes be tricky as I’m sure many of you moms and dads out there can relate to. While I do sneak all sorts of healthy goodies into recipes like tomato sauce, smoothies, fresh juice and soups, I still want my kids to grow up knowing they are eating fresh produce, recognizing these foods and ultimately choosing to eat them. Better yet, I want them to know where their vegetables come from and how they end up on our grocery store shelves.
When my six-year-old was younger he would eat just about every fruit and veggie I gave him. Tart treats like Kumquats made him pucker and giggle; cucumbers, clementines, you name it he loved it, especially raw vegetables. I have pictures of him diving face first into half of a watermelon and attempting to bite florets off a cauliflower head bigger than his. These days he would never eat cauliflower, oranges, grapefruit, sweet potato, the list goes on and on. I have to be fair, at least 6-8 produce superstars are still on his OK list – broccoli (cooked only), carrots, celery, peppers, strawberries, watermelon, apples. Not bad at all. Behavior experts estimate it can take up to 15-20 introductions of a new food to a child before he or she will accept it or know if they like it!
I’ve found that patience is important and so is flexibility and giving them a choice. Do you want broccoli or peppers tonight? Variety helps too. We all eat more quantity when there are more choices (think buffet or dessert bar). Some other tips to consider:
• Try putting a few options on their plates- just a couple of carrot, celery and cucumber sticks.
• Add dips like hummus or guacamole and dressings for extra flavor. Try cooked and raw versions of veggies to see which they prefer – texture can be a big thing.
• They may prefer foods be separate on the plate (no more fruit salad).
• Have your kids help pick out produce at the store or even better a You-Pick farm or farmer’s market– this can help them feel more involved and it’s fun.
• Make blended soups. The texture is great and they get all the flavor without negotiating the individual ingredients.
I’d love to hear your favorite tips for getting your kids to eat their veggies, happily!