12 Tips to Help Your Family Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
It can be tough to get your child or teen to make half of their plate fruits and vegetables every day. Especially since many choose fried vegetables such as french fries and potato chips instead of a healthy baked potato or a side salad. As a parent, you might be confused about how to go about introducing your child or teen to more healthful choices. Below are 12 tips to help you introduce more fruits and vegetables to your family’s diet.
Be a Role ModelRemember you have to set a good example and eat your fruits and vegetables too. Encourage the whole family to try new foods. Kids like to copy what they see, if they see their family trying new foods, they are more likely to do the same. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips for snack, set a positive example and choose an apple instead.
Be CreativeMake their plate come to life, especially for the younger kids. Use broccoli and cauliflower as trees, shredded carrots as the lion’s mane, make zucchini boats and use sliced cucumbers for the sail, or make beautiful flowers with spinach leaves and tomatoes. Provide kids with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and see what pictures and stories they come up with. Make eating fruits and vegetables fun.
Get them InvolvedHave kids get involved in dinner preparation by snapping string beans, tearing the lettuce for a salad, measuring and washing vegetables or pealing carrots. Teens can help by chopping fruit for a tasty fruit salad or slicing carrots. Give them the freedom of choosing new recipes and developing a shopping list. Have a cook-off between siblings and parents; see who makes the tastiest dinner or start a cooking club a school. The possibilities are endless in the kitchen.
Keep OfferingDon’t get discouraged if your child refuses to eat vegetables for dinner. Keep offering them, especially before dinner when they are at their hungriest. Sometimes foods need to be presented to them multiple times before they will even try it. Encourage but do not force.
Take them Grocery ShoppingTake your child or teen on a shopping adventure. Have them pick out their own fruits and vegetables for dinner or snack. Challenge them to choose a new fruit or vegetable every trip. For younger children, playing I-Spy in the produce section or searching for fruits and vegetables to match a rainbow. Get them excited about trying new things.
Take it SlowStart by introducing one or two new fruits or vegetables at a time to keep kids from feeling overwhelmed.
Try GardeningIf you have the space and time, why not try gardening. Find out which fruits and vegetables thrive where you live, vegetables such as lettuce and zucchini grow very well in many environments. Gardening can teach kids and teens about responsibility and how fruits and vegetables are grown. If gardening does not interest your child, take a trip to a local farmers market. Many farmers would be happy to take a few minutes and talk about their produce and how it is grown.
Taste TestingSet up a taste testing activity which includes the senses taste, smell, touch, and sight. Include favorites but also one or two new ones. Make it a positive experience. Add dips to make vegetables more appealing or try using comparisons with foods that they like. If your child loves peaches but is hesitant to try a nectarine, describe how similar they are in taste, smell and texture. Sometimes knowing what to expect makes trying new foods less scary.
Prepare Different WaysSometimes different preparation methods can change the taste and texture of foods such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. If they are not too keen on raw carrots or cauliflower, next time try them steamed or roasted.
EducateEspecially for teens and pre-teens, educate them on the importance of fruits and vegetables. Describe how calcium in green leafy vegetables help keep bones strong, vitamin A in carrots and sweet potatoes are good for eye health. Discuss how vitamins and minerals help keep skin and hair shiny and healthy. Have teens discuss their challenges and concerns when it comes to eating more fruits and vegetables.
Plan a Play DateIf your child’s best friend likes fruits and vegetables, try to plan a play date and provide a variety of sliced fruit and vegetables for snack. See if your child catches on.
Keep Them AvailableIf you want your teen or child to eat more fruits and vegetables, you need to buy them. You do have control over what they eat. If you do not want them eating candy, cookies, cake, chips for snack, then keep those foods out of the pantry. If fruits and vegetables are the only snack available, they have no other choice. Keep a fresh fruit bowl in the refrigerator for snack or raw vegetables with dip as an appetizer before dinner.
Try one, two, or even all of these tips and see if they work for your family. It might take a while for them to catch on and develop a taste for fruits and vegetables, but it will be worth it in the long run.