Increased fruit and vegetable consumption can greatly reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.
1. Cut them- It is often difficult for children to eat whole, fresh veggies or fruit. They are hard, they hurt their mouths and they can choke. A parent will have much better results if they serve veggies cut into smaller pieces and in longer strips. Fruit is also best served in bite size pieces. If you don’t have an apple cutter, invest in one it makes life much better and healthier. Smaller portions are also less intimidating.
2. Hide them- Sometimes children don’t want to eat veggies. There are tons of ways to hide them in food without them even knowing. In our home, for example, we now cook pureed cauliflower into our eggs, it makes the eggs fluffier and taste better. You can also hide lots or delicious veggies in breads and other entrees. Another secret weapon is the green smoothie. These have become very popular recently because people are discovering that this is a tasty way to get in lots of fruits and veggies that you would never eat otherwise.
3. Plan them- Meal planning is essential for healthy eating. Don’t just buy items hoping that they will work their way into the children’s mouths, without a plan they will most likely make their way into the garbage. Plan ahead. Know what you want to feed them and buy accordingly.
4. Dip them- It is great to learn how to eat veggies plain but children can benefit from dipping veggies in various dips especially if this is what gets them to eat them. A light ranch dressing, for example, may make them more appealing. Of all thing my kids like A1 sauce for a veggie dip, it is one they discovered on their own. It is good to experiment! I will even serve a snack of various veggies with various dips and the kids get to pick, mix and try. They like things better when they think it is their idea. Children also enjoy dipping fruits into a yogurt dip, then roll them in a dry treat like low fat granola. We call these rollers.
5. Display them- A beautiful fruit bowl displayed in the middle of the counter or table is what I call “mommy advertising”. Professional marketers know that children are the perfect target for advertising because their minds are so easily influenced. Children will want to eat what they see. You may have to deal with half eaten apples put back in the fruit bowl and possibly throw away some uneaten fruit, but in the end it will be worth it. Also for older kids, you may want to have a refrigerator makeover. Put fresh pre-cut fruits and veggies at eye level so they are easily accessible. You will be surprised at how often your teen will choose them over something else. I have a friend who called the crisper drawer in the refrigerator the “rotter” because it is often ignored and out of sight.
6. Eat them- This is also along the lines of “mommy advertising” if you are eating fruits and veggies your kids will more likely want to eat them too because they are in their environment. Research shows in health marketing that it isn't knowledge that makes a person change but usually environment.
7. Ignore them- Serve them as if this is something that you have done all along and act like you expect them to eat them. If you are hesitant and make this seem out of the ordinary the kids may grow suspicious and think “well maybe I am not supposed to like these” Don’t make judgments and decide that your kids won’t like something before you have tried it various times and in various different ways.
8. Juice them- Carrots, oranges, apples can all be juiced to make healthily sweet juices or popsicles. Be apprehensive of juices bought in stores which are usually packed with sugar. Don’t rely on juice as the main source of a fruit or veggie. Be mindful that although homemade juices provide lots of vitamins they often lack fiber which is important.
9. Discover them-Try different types of apples, berries and veggies. I thought that apples had to be ‘red delicious’ apples. It wasn't until I discovered gala that I started liking them. Don’t cross off certain types of veggies just because you had a bad experience in your own childhood. Steam them, cut them, try them in different combos. Baked sweet potato fries are a hit at our house along with caulirice (Chopped cooked cauliflower instead of rice). There are lots of options.
10. Freeze them-Frozen green smoothie pops is something I have learned from my neighbor. Frozen fruit juice pops and fruit yogurt pops are also yummy and perfect on a hot day. Bananas can be frozen and put in smoothies and they actually taste better after they have been frozen. Frozen gapes are also a simple and sweet snack!
11. Buy them Fresh- We are so lucky to have a Reams nearby! The produce manager takes pride in fresh, nice looking fruits and veggies. If you buy brown bananas, bruised apples or shriveled green peppers, your family is less likely to eat them.
12. Don’t Give up- It is worth it! Try, try again. Kids change their minds and what they like or dislike changes. It took us a long time after trying and trying for our kids to like certain things. Don’t be the only thing standing between your children and good eating habits that can lengthen and improve their lives!