Tasty, nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables are in readily available at this time of the year. If your son or daughter isn’t all that interested in broccoli, you’re not alone. Trying to get kids to eat their veggies is a never-ending battle for many parents. Since produce is packed with vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and so much more, skipping it isn’t a good option. Here are some smart, simple ways to encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Set an example. By far, the best predictor of a child’s eating behavior is the eating patterns of his or her parents. If fruits and vegetables are an afterthought in your household, you can’t expect your kids to take to them. Children eat what they they’re accustomed to, so make it a habit to include fruit with breakfast and lunch, keep healthy snacks on hand, and serve at least one vegetable with dinner. The diet you follow will likely be the one your children follow, so don’t be a stranger to the produce aisle.
Empower you child. Children are more invested in a meal if they help with its preparation. Taking your kids with you to the farmers market or grocery store and letting them pick one or two things to cook for dinner can make them far more excited to eat it later. Letting them clean carrots, snap beans, and mix the dressing will give them a sense of pride and make them more enthusiastic at meal time.
Incorporate veggies into other dishes. Although some parents don’t care for the idea of “sneaking” veggies into kids’ food, it can be a great way to add texture and flavor to meals, not to mention extra nutrients. Shred zucchini and carrots and add them to muffins or casseroles. Add broccoli florets or julienne carrots to pasta or potato salad. Stir some spinach, mushrooms, or zucchini into your spaghetti sauce. Add bananas or berries to pancakes, oatmeal, and/or cereal.
Keep healthy snacks readily available. Make it easy for kids to choose nutritious snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Always have freshly cut vegetable sticks and hummus or dip in the fridge. Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. Freeze fruits such as bananas or grapes for a frozen treat.
Above all, don't give up. Some children will be more difficult than others and will require more effort and patience. It’s important to realize that the eating habits children develop at a young age will remain with them into adulthood. Set a good example, create fun, positive experiences around food, let them help in the kitchen, and do anything else you can to keep exposing them to healthy foods. Your persistence will pay off in the end.
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