Tips for getting kids to eat their vegetables!
By: Jodie Shield, RD
The number one question parents ask me is, “”How do I get my child to eat vegetables?”. So this week, I wanted to give you some pointers to help you raise kids who love eating their veggies. After 25 years of being a registered dietitian and mom, I have learned the key is to help kids develop healthy eating habits. Even though eating habits are formed when we are younger, the good news is: it’s never too late to learn how to eat healthy. Kids of all ages (even adults) can learn to change and improve their eating habits. And, with time and loving patience, kids can acquire a taste for not-so-favorite foods like Brussels sprouts. Here are some strategies for getting kids to eat healthier and enjoy fruits and veggies. They come from my book Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens which is now available as an ebook. Check it out – you’ll find even more veggie-lover tips.
- Parents – eat your veggies! When you are a good role model, you’ll produce better results in your kids. Make sure you eat fruits and veggies and make sure your child or teen sees you eating and enjoying them.
- Try it, you’ll like it. Kids are reluctant to try new foods, but the more often a food is presented (even if it’s not eaten), the more positive a kid’s attitude will be toward the food. It can take up to 10 offerings before some kids will even put a new food in their mouth! So don’t give up too early. Be patient and keep offering the food. You can also try serving it different ways. For example, offer broccoli with a dip, broccoli steamed with a drizzle of cheese sauce, broccoli diced and tossed in pasta sauce, and broccoli soup.
- Taste first, swallowing is optional. When encouraging kids to taste new foods, establish the “taste-but-don’t-have-to-swallow” policy. Let kids know that there is no need to make yucky faces or cause a scene if they don’t like the taste of a certain fruit or vegetable. Give them a small portion to taste; if they don’t care for the food, they can politely use a paper napkin to remove it from their mouth.
- Conduct “either/or” negotiations. Encourage kids to choose the fruits and vegetables they eat, but don’t overwhelm them with endless fruit and vegetable options. Kids will feel more empowered if you give them forced-choice options such as: Would you like a sweet potato or carrots for dinner? How does watermelon sound for a snack or would you prefer sliced peaches?
- Offer new foods first. Introduce kids to a new fruit or vegetable by serving it at the beginning of the meal when they’re more likely to be hungry. You can also put a plate of bell pepper strips, baby carrots, and pea pods on the counter when you’re preparing lunch or dinner and let kids nibble. This helps take the edge off their appetite in a healthy way, and it will help them reach their veggie quota.
- Serve veggies and fruit family-style. Dish up kids’ plates with recommended servings from each of the MyPlate foods groups but keep a bowl of vegetables and fruit on the table for passing. If kids want seconds, they can have more fruits and vegetables. It’s a great way to help kids get in touch with their appetite and reach a healthy weight.
- Stand firm. If kids won’t eat their kiwi or peas, don’t fight with them. Tell them that’s fine, but they will not be able to eat anything until the next meal. Many kids crave the extra attention they get from not eating. Refusing to battle with them often motivates kids to eat.
These tips have worked for me personally and many families that I have worked with over the years. Which tip are you going to try first?