By: Wendy Wu, R.D., M.S.
Working in a children’s hospital has taught me a lot about kids and their interactions with food. I’ve discovered that there are strategies for getting them to eat healthier foods. If you’re struggling to get your child to eat their veggies, you’ll find the following post very helpful.
1) Kids prefer foods that they’re used to eating of course. Whatever mom and dad made or bought for them will be their preference.
For children to eat healthier foods, the entire family has to be involved. Parents cannot serve grilled chicken breast to one child and the rest of the family gets fried chicken. Remember that a healthy start involves the whole entire family.
2) They like foods that are easy to eat, like finger foods. Edamame makes for a great start. Kids love to snap and pop them into their mouths. Other suggestions include mini cauliflower “brain”, sweet potato sticks, baby broccoli “trees”, and tiny cucumber “boats”.
3) Get kids involved. Whether it be in the kitchen chopping up veggies, whisking eggs, washing fruits or just choosing foods at the supermarket, they’re more willing to try foods they themselves have participated in.
Introduce one new vegetable everyday and have them choose which ones they want to try. If they decide not to try it, do not get mad or force them to finish their veggies. Your angry reaction might cause them to avoid eating them altogether. Kids’ taste buds change over time, they might not like the veggie you offered today but maybe they’ll like them after a few more tries. So don’t give up! You can try a strategy that have worked like a charm for me…make the veggie look like the most delicious food you’ve ever placed in your mouth. Your child just might reconsider.
Another strategy is to introduce new foods with familiar ones. So if your child likes corn, serve them together with beans. Serving vegetables at the beginning of the meal (they’re hungry) like an appetizer and fruits at the end of the meal as dessert is a good idea.
4) Kids like a little nutrition education. Tell them that carrots are high in vitamin A which will be good for their eyes and tofu is a good source of calcium which will build strong bones and teeth. Encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables because they’re loaded with fiber which will help “sweep” their bodies clean.
5) Make eating healthy food fun! Cut a sandwich into different shapes and sizes. Tell a story about the wonderful butterfly apple that saves lives. Rap about them! Name healthy foods from A-Z game (ex: A-apple, B-banana, Z-zucchini). You might have to skip some letters.
Keep in mind: Parents are the major influence of the types of fruits and vegetables their children consume. However, genetic factors also plays a role. Researchers have found that there are different variations in the bitter taste receptor gene, so to some people certain vegetables like broccoli, turnip, mustard green, and horseradish taste much more bitter than to others.
Have you read 7 Fun Ways to Eat Fruit?
I leave you with this cute video. Enjoy!