I have always wanted to make sure my kids eat enough fruits and vegetables. With all the junk food around it’s so easy for them to fill up on nutrition-poor food, to the neglect of the really valuable foods like fruits and vegetables. Some kids just really find this food group unappealing. Others are no problem. The following are ideas I’ve used over the years to increase everybody’s fruit and veggie intake.
- If they will only eat them raw, let them eat them raw. It’s actually better for them anyway. Almost no one in our family likes cooked carrots so we very often have a bowl of raw carrots on the table for a vegetable at dinner. Ditto for any other veggie.
- Put a plate of raw vegetables in front of them while they’re watching TV. Don’t ask if they’re hungry or if they want something to eat. Especially don’t ask if they want to eat some raw vegetables! Just make a little platter. If you have time, use a variety of colors and make the plate look attractive. (You know, alternate colors or make a little pattern or a smiley face, etc.)When you take it to them say something casual like, “Here’s something for you to nibble on” or “You can eat some of these if you want.” Then walk away as if it doesn’t matter to you if they eat them or not. If they complain just say, “Just leave them if you don’t want them.”
Then … lo and behold, they can’t help themselves. Eyes on TV, hand goes to mouth. They just eat them. Sometimes the entire platter will disappear. Then at dinner you don’t have to see if they’re eating the veggies. They already ate them. Mission accomplished.
- Put little sprigs of grapes or cherries or those little pre-washed carrots on the table when they come home from school. Of course, the very popular fruits like strawberries or watermelon will disappear in minutes. Even if they’re headed for a different snack, they’ll pop a few veggies or fruits in first just because they’re available and they’re so hungry. A great time to do this is when you’re making dinner. The kids come in to find out what’s for dinner and you just say, “You can snack on what’s on the table if you’re hungry.” They’ll nearly always pop one or two in their mouths.
- Sometimes when a child wants a sugary snack, I just say, “You can have it if you eat a fruit or vegetable first.” They don’t need to eat a lot — four grapes, one little carrot stick, just a little token amount. But every little bit adds to the total for the day. I don’t think any child of mine has ever declined the offer.
- When my kids were real little I got them interested in broccoli by calling them “little trees.” We pretended we were giant dinosaurs eating the trees. They loved it. I even got them to eat some asparagus by calling them the “palm trees.” (I wouldn’t try this with teens. I don’t think they’ll buy it!)
- Cut the apples into little slices and arrange them on a plate. A lot of kids will eat an apple if it’s cut, even though they don’t want to be bothered eating a whole one.
Here’s the short version:
Kids will eat fruits or vegetables if you make them readily available (like put them right in front of the child) when the child is hungry. You’ll have better luck offering them at snack times rather than at meals when they’re distracted by other appealing dishes like mac and cheese or chicken strips and so on. Mindless snack times, like when they’re watching TV or roaming the kitchen looking for something to nibble on, work really well.
So … that’s my two cents. Anybody have other ideas?
Copyright 2018 Rosemary Bogdan