Are you tired of your kids turning up their noses at healthy food? Check out these easy, fun (and yes, even sneaky) tricks to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies. Don’t be surprised if they start asking for seconds!
Step 1: Enforce a ‘No thank you bite’ rule
Melissa d’Arabian, host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners, says she has a rule that encourages her children to taste new fruits and vegetables. They must try it, but they are allowed to say “No thank you” and not eat any more, if they so wish. “I’d rather have my girls willingly try ten vegetables with a smile and say ‘no thank you’ afterward than have them plug their nose and swallow a full serving of one vegetable,” says d’Arabian.
This leads us to the next tip…
Step 2: Keep offering
If your kids don’t like broccoli or green beans the first time they try it, keep offering it to them. “Studies show it takes 8-15 times before a child accepts a new food,” says Hillary Feerick-Hillenbrand and Jeff Hillenbrand, creators of the Mitch Spinach children’s book series. “Try a different way of preparing the same food.” Try steaming, bakingor sauteing the same veggie to see if one method of preparation tastes better than the other.
Step 3: Think frozen!
As a snack while watching TV, my daughter often sits with a small bowl of frozen peas or frozen green beans on her lap,” says Ellen Kellner, author of The Pro-Child Way: Parenting with an Ex. “I buy organic quality so they taste great and are actually healthier than when cooked. Being frozen gives them a good munching quality – no slime.”
Step 4: Serve soups
Ian Anderson of PolishingPeanuts.com says that his kids love eating vegetables in homemade soups. “They are so easy to make, thick and delicious. Broccoli, leek and potato, tomato, the list is endless. What’s more, they are cheap, often don’t include meat, are easily served with a chunk of fresh bread, contain no chemicals and are quick to make with a simple blender,” he says.
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Step 5: Clean house
Keep your house stocked with healthy fruits, vegetables and fruit juices – and keep the junk food out. “Any savvy four-year-old will refuse spinach if she can hold out for a piece of pie. Why eat lunch when there is a dish full of candy in the living room? If everything in the house is healthy, then you can honestly say, ‘You can have anything you want,'” says registered dietician Carol Meerschaert, MBA, RD. “By ridding the house of less nutritious foods, you allow the healthy food you want them to eat to get center stage.”
Step 6: Set the example
If your child sees you snacking on cookies and high fat foods, they will do the same. Be a good role model! “If you eat your 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, your child will learn to do that also,” says Meerschaert.
Step 7: Drink fruits and veggies
Look for 100% juices and fruit and veggie juice blends as an easy and healthy way to get these essential nutrients into their growing bodies — or mix them into a smoothie. “Fill bowls with various ingredients, such as berries, mango, spinach, broccoli, flax or chia seeds, and let kids pick what they want. They can even turn the blender on! They love to be in control! ,” says Hillenbrand, who recommends make-your-own smoothie parties.
Step 8: Watch your words
The words you are using can unintentionally be turning your kids off of fruits and veggies. “If you tell children they do not like something, they will believe it,” says Hillenbrand. “Tell them they are picky and they will be. Many times kids will eat foods at a restaurant or at a friend’s house that they refused at home. Encourage them to try foods and see if they like them.”
Step 9: Make dips and seasonings
“Make a quick salad dressing or dip or use a store-bought one and watch them eat string beans, carrots, celery, cucumbers and any other veggie that you cut into strips for dipping,” says Hillenbrand.
Kecskes recommends dipping fruits in flavored yogurt and making a veggie dip with plain yogurt mixed with salsa. Sprinkle salt and vegetable seasonings on it to up the flavor and taste.
Step 10: Try sneaky parent tricks
If all else fails, sneak in fruits and veggies at every opportunity. “Hide unpopular foods. Mix some carrot juice in the orange juice. Put pumpkin in the pancakes. Who would have guessed there were turnips in the mashed potatoes?” says Meerschaert
More ways to raise healthy kids
For more healthy eating tips for kids, check this out:
10 Healthiest foods your kids need to be eating