The following is a guest post by Amy Bowman of New Nostalgia.
I have had much success in getting my kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. How? By appealing to the things they love!
- Kids love COLOR
- Kids love GAMES
- Kids love LEARNING
- Kids love feeling “GROWN UP”
Below are some tips that appeal to these very things:
We try to “eat the rainbow” every day in our home. We talk often about the importance of getting some of each color, everyday. It is 1:00 p.m. and I just asked my eight-year old a question I ask often, “How many colors have you had today?” Her answer, “Blue blueberries in my oatmeal for breakfast, orange orange juice, yellow banana with my lunch, green asparagus with lunch, red apple with lunch, green kale for snack, blended up in my fruit- smoothie popsicle.
2. Take Advantage Of Kids Natural Desire To Learn
Why do we need to eat our fruits and vegetables? When kids understand the reason for doing something they are much more likely to cooperate. Learn together what “free radicals” are and why we don’t want them in our bodies. Teach what “anti-oxidants” are what they do to help our bodies. Learn the different nutrients and vitamins in each fruit and vegetable, and how they benefit the body. “Nutrition For Dummies” is a great resource for teaching simple nutrition lessons.
3. Shop The Rainbow
This can be fun and easily turned into a game. In the car on the way to the grocery store, talk about how you are going to “shop the rainbow.” Ask the kids for their help. Ask them to name as many “red” fruits and vegetables as they can. When they can’t think of anymore, ask them to name the “yellows.” You could even have one make a list of all the vegetables you come up with under each color category, then vote in the car what you should buy in each category. Circle those items, take it into the store with you as your grocery list.
4. Take Advantage Of Color
Comment on the natural beauty of fruits and vegetables. Talk about all the different, beautiful hues. The deep purple of eggplant, the bright red of strawberries the bright green of broccoli. While you are admiring the colors also notice all the beautiful shapes and textures.
We use mason jars in our home for food storage. I have many reasons, but my favorite reason is that you can easily see what is in the jar. There is nothing better than opening the refrigerator and seeing jars full of shredded orange carrots, bright green peas, yellow pepper strips, or balls of pink watermelon. My kids know that if they are still hungry after a “salty” or “sweet” snack that they can go to the refrigerator and help themselves to the vegetables in mason jars. I love seeing them grab a jar, grab the dip, and munch away!
5. Keep Your Power
It is important to keep healthful eating lighthearted and playful, but there will also be times when it is not, and we will have to be the parent. If your kids need medicine it is your job to make them take it. Good food is just as important. We look at fruits and vegetables as medicine in our home, “Nature’s Pharmacy.” My kids know that eating their fruits and vegetables is not an option. They know it is a necessity and it is expected.
6. Implement This Simple Rule
To keep power struggles to a minimum, especially at the dinner table, our rule is “no eating your main dish until your vegetable is gone.” This is very effective. They come to the table very hungry, smelling the spaghetti and garlic bread. They are sitting there face to face with their desires. They eventually give in and eat their vegetable. It is a great strategy which takes advantage of the fact that everything tastes better when you are hungry! This rule was needed when they were younger, but we rarely use it anymore as our expectations are now known.
7. Keep Portions Small
This is important especially when introducing a new vegetable! Give them time to acclimate to new textures and tastes. Broccoli is not my girls favorite vegetable so we started with one small broccoli floret, and worked our way to almost a full serving. Gradually work the serving size up to at least a 1/2 cup.
8. Appeal To Kids Desire To Feel “Grown-Up”
One of the most simple strategies we have used is saying (as they are chewing with scrunched up noses), “Oh, you don’t like that vegetable? Your taste buds must not be old enough for that one yet. Maybe next time you taste it, it will be different.” This creates a positive goal in our home, being old enough and having a “mature enough palate” to like all types of vegetables.
9. Talk About Palates
We watch “Top Chef” as a family. It has been very educational when it comes to different types of foods. We comment on how the judges have such mature palates. When my kids like something healthy I will say, “Wow, you have such a healthy palate!” We have even talked about how eating just a bite or two of a new taste and texture can help train our palates to appreciate all types of food. This appeals to kids desire to feel “grown-up” and also keeps things lighthearted and fun, like a game.
10. Teach About Texture
Again, the show “Top Chef” has been helpful in this area. The judges are always talking about how a certain dish needs more “texture.” For the longest time my kids would complain about lettuce and tomatoes on their tacos. It would frustrate me because it turned a healthful meal into a “meat and cheese” meal. Not what I wanted. So, one night when having tacos, I casually said, “I bet the “Top Chef” judges would say your tacos need more texture.” I saw this sparked their curiosity and continued, “Lettuce gives a type of crispy crunch and tomatoes are soft and cool down the spice of the meat. Wow, the textures of the food work and taste beautifully together!” It worked. They tried it and agreed. Yes!
11. Make It A Game
Hang a chart on the refrigerator to keep track of “who ate the most colors that day”. If it is over 5 servings give a sticker! Or make a matching game- match the color of fruit or vegetable with the main nutrient it provides. This is a great way for adults to learn too!
12. Grow Them
The last two years, we have had much fun with our Square Foot Garden. When my kids watch something grow from a seed they squished into the dirt they are very eager to eat the reward.
Photo by Jellaluna
13. Simple Ways to Eat Fruits And Vegetables
- Frozen berries in cold cereal
- Frozen berries in oatmeal
- A bowl of frozen berries thawed to perfection during dinner in time for dessert
- Apple slices almond butter
- Bananas sliced on bran flakes for breakfast
- Banana slices on whole wheat peanut butter bagel
- Celery and peanut butter or cream cheese
- Pepper strips and hummus
- Cucumber slices and dip
- Frozen grapes– so refreshing!
- A 6-cup muffin tin full of different colors for snack
- Clementine slices on our salads
- Frozen mango chunks in a bowl
- Edamame with sea salt-my kids favorite
- Fruit smoothies made green by blending in spinach
- Eggplant in place of beef in our spaghetti sauce
- Fruit kabobs-so pretty and fun
- Fresh berries in pancakes
- Homemade, no- cook berry jam
- Sliced berries on ice cream
- Spinach salad with mason jars full of vegetable toppings to add themselves
- Make our own fresh vegetable and fruit juices using our juicer.
For recipes and more ideas, I would be honored if you visited me at my blog, New Nostalgia, where I attempt to “recapture the simplicity of yesterday and apply it to today!”
Have you struggled to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables? Or what methods have you used to help you (or seen others use) in this area?