If you are a parent of young children, chances are that you are intimately acquainted with the battle over eating fruits and vegetables. It’s not just that most kids do not have a palate designed to enjoy such healthy fare. Adding to their natural disinclination for fruits and vegetables is the constant advertising onslaught that creates in our kids a cultural craving for processed junk foods. If it’s still a struggle getting your kids to eat fruits and vegetables, here are a few tips:
1. Pick foods that prime the imagination.
Even if they may not initially like the taste of certain fruits and vegetables, if they look fun, then they’ll be more open to giving it a try. For example, broccoli isn’t a vegetable, it’s a tiny tree! Starfruit has an interesting shape that kids love, and artichoke is fun to tear apart, layer by layer. Think of different fruits and vegetables that are more participatory in nature and see how much fun your kids will have eating them!
2. Present fruits and veggies in fun ways.
The most important thing to remember when trying to get your children interested in healthier fare is that it’s all in the presentation. For example, celery by itself is boring, and it tastes bland, too. Why not try “ants on a log,” a healthy, celery-based snack with all-natural peanut butter and raisins on top? Even scientific research notes the importance of presentation. According to a report cited in this pediatric health article, kids will eat twice as much fruit if served in a visually appealing manner.
3. Set a time after which any snacking must be fruits or vegetables.
Snacking is one of the primary culprits in childhood obesity. This usually occurs, however, when kids become accustomed to snacking on processed foods. Even supposedly healthy snacks like gummy fruit snacks are mostly just sugar. Although it can difficult to police what your kids may be snacking on in school, set a rule that after school, any and all snacking must be strictly fruits and vegetables. Cut up apples, carrots, or other easy to prepare raw fruits and vegetables. Fill little ziplock bags every day so that your children have the snack readily available when they’re hungry. Once they get into the habit of snacking on fruits and veggies, they’ll eventually develop a taste for them.
4. Emphasize the benefits.
Even if your kids may be too young to understand the concept of long-term health benefits, break down the advantages of eating fruits and vegetables in terms that they can understand. For example, explain to them that if they want to be better at a sport they enjoy, they’ll have to eat healthy. Same goes for any other endeavor, even if it isn’t a physical activity. Explain that every activity requires a healthy body before it requires anything else.
Of course, simply implementing these tips won’t automatically make your kids love their fruits and vegetables. But the most important thing to remember is that as long as they develop healthy eating habits at an early age, they’ll eventually enjoy these foods, even when you aren’t controlling what they eat.