It can be a struggle to get children to eat their recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. However, there’s no need to panic! Children often have to be offered a new food up to 15 times before they will taste it. So, making eating time enjoyable is the best way to get kids to learn to enjoy the healthy options. Kids tend to enjoy fruits sooner than vegetables (because they’re sweet), but that’s ok because fruits are full of vitamins and minerals just like vegetables! As long as your child is actually enjoying their fruits and vegetables, that’s what matters! If your children are growing normally and have plenty of energy to play and learn, they’re probably getting what they need.
Kids learn primarily by example, so if you consume more fruits and vegetables, they may eventually be persuaded to do the same. And if you keep offering them healthy options each day (even if they don’t eat them), once their taste buds have matured, they may actually enjoy them! It’s also important to make eating fruits and veggies fun! Creating edible fruit and vegetable artwork, letting kids help prepare their meals, and even dipping are a few ways to make eating fruits and veggies fun!
In a recent study published in the American Dietetic Association, 152 preschool-age kids were served broccoli as a snack over seven (7) weeks. Researchers found that consumption of vegetables increased 80% when the kids were served broccoli with 2.5 ounces of ranch dressing as a dip. The results were the same whether the dip was low-fat or not.*
Try to make the experience of trying a fruit or vegetable positive and fun. If a child senses any excess anxiety on your part, s/he is more likely to resist trying them.
Here are some ways to help with your picky eaters:
- Add fruits and vegetables to the dishes your child already loves. Adding a small amount of a new fruit or vegetable to the plate of something s/he already enjoys will increase the chances of success.
- Introduce your child to fruit juice, which counts towards her/his fruit servings for the day. There are several varieties available that offer both vegetables and fruit in each serving! But limit juice to one or two servings a day because you want to be sure s/he gets the fiber and fullness from whole fruits and veggies.
- Take your kids with you on your next trip to the grocery store and have them pick out a fruit or vegetable they would like to try.
- Prepare vegetables in various ways: try them cooked or raw, plain or with dips, as purees in soups or sauces.
- Get your children involved in the growing, preparation or cooking process. This will help them learn about healthy eating and be more excited about fruits and veggies!
Providing your children with proper nutrition can be frustrating, but don’t give up! Be patient … and set an example! In time, they’ll learn to enjoy more of the nutritious foods that you prepare for them.