10 Tips to get Kids to eat more Fruit and Veg
Feeding children and teenagers can be extremely challenging. While their nutritional needs are high in proportion to the body size, there are lots of barriers that we come up against as parents that can be frustrating to overcome. Making a fuss about eating fruit and veg is often one of them and often be a source of tension at the dinner table. But there are a few tricks you can try:-
1. Very few children will tell you that fruit and veg are their favourite foods and will generally choose a treat food instead if they can. But that is one of the areas that we really need to work on. If we give a child the option between an apple or a biscuit, most will choose the biscuit. But if you give them a choice between an apple and a few grapes, they have to choose either the apple or the grapes and both are good options! So, surrounding your child with healthy options is probably one of the first places to start. And it also gives them some independence and encourages them to make their own decisions.
2. We have tendency to make things harder for ourselves but research actually suggests simply smiling while eating could be the key. Researchers have found that children are more likely to try foods they do not normally like if they see adults smiling while they eat them. Children as young as five are shown to be more willing to taste vegetables they previously rejected if they see an adult obviously enjoying them. Children are susceptible to the emotions of others, and so adults may unconsciously influence their food choices. Again, it goes back to being a good role model. It’s hard to convince a child to eat Brussels sprouts if you won’t go near them. Parents need to think of themselves as salespeople. So eat veg/salad/fruit yourself, and make sure your child is watching.
3. Take them the supermarket and let them pick out a vegetable they want to have for dinner. Young kids love to play grown-up so let them weigh their choice, bag it, and place it on the counter. At home, let them wash, peel, and slice it and help choose how to cook and flavour it. Get them to touch it and smell it. Having them see how the food is prepared is less intimidating and having a sense of ownership makes them more likely to eat it.
4. Get them when they are hungry. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Before dinner, try serving a starter of colourful vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, along with a hummus or low-fat salad dressing.
5. Use specific strategies when tackling vegetables e.g. for a young child, making faces with cut-up veg may help get them from his plate to his mouth. Calling broccoli “trees” or cauliflower “brains” can make them much more interesting. Making food mini-sized also can make it more kid-friendly; Add veggies to smoothies and blend together with sweet fruits like berries or apples for a better alternative to fizzy drinks; Grate carrot into spaghetti bolognaise sauce – it’s pretty much undetectable!; Get them to build their own pizza using their favourite vegetables, or it’s a great way to try our new veggies – use a tortilla wrap/pitta bread as a base.; A healthy dip like hummus may make raw vegetables more appealing to kids as they love the act of dipping foods and eating with their fingers.
6. Try roasted vegetables. Sometimes kids don’t like vegetables because they’re too mushy or taste too strong. Try roasting them instead to get a flavour and consistency kids will like. Roasting can make them soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, a bit like chips. It also brings out a vegetable’s natural sweetness, so they don’t taste as intense as they might when they’re raw. Try drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with some parmesan cheese before roasting.
7. When it comes to fruit, this is generally easier to tackle as it is naturally sweet and kids like that. Again have tactics in minds – make colourful fruit kebabs that are fun to eat . Add some chopped fruit to jelly mixes, and put in the freezer for a tasty dessert after dinner, make your fruit look interesting and make into different shapes e.g. using an apple peeler.
8. Think about times away from the home – have fruit in the car for long journeys so they have something to munch on – put it in colourful boxes or bags, again emphasising the fun aspect.
9. Take advantage of peer pressure. If your child has a friend who is an adventurous eater invite them over for dinner and serve up some new veggies. Peer pressure may work in a good way and your child may be more likely to try a new food if their friend is bold enough to try it first.
10. Lastly, don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t immediately like a new food. Children are naturally resistant to new foods. Just because they don’t like it the first time, doesn’t mean they won’t eat it ever again. Reintroduce foods every once in a while and try preparing them in different ways or cutting it into different shapes.
You want meals to be fun, not a battle ground so bear this in mind the next time they refuse their greens. The bottom line is that we can’t make a child eat! A basic rule of human nature, is that when one demands, the other resists. So the more you try to make your child eat certain foods or a certain amount, the more your child will naturally resist. Kids love emotion so the key is to show lots of emotion when they do things right and very little emotion when they don’t.
Praise Praise Praise when they eat something new for you!
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