Here’s a great post by a fellow blogger in the Bay Area – Tricia O’Keefe Girbal, who writes a neat little blog called Dish by Trish. Trish is a Registered Dietitian and a foodie who believes that delicious and healthy foods can co-exist. I loved her recent post on ways to get kids to eat more vegetables and she graciously accepted when I asked her to share her post on our blog. I hope you find some good tips below to get our little munchkins eating their veggies!
p.s. I can vouch for tip #8. We did this and Ria found incredible joy in eating veggies right off the plant. Veggie garden = gateway to regular veggie eating!
We already know that fruits and veggies are associated with good health and reduced disease risk. Unfortunately, very few of us are meeting recommendations for these foods, particularly the little ones. Less than 10% of kids are eating the recommended amount of fruits and veggies.
Two of the biggest things that predict whether kids will eat veggies are preference and availability. Let’s first start with making these foods available. Let’s give our kids veggies regularly and let them taste-test different foods. Even if they don’t like it or try it the first few times, they may eventually warm up to it.
A new study finds that the more (higher amount) a certain veggie was given to kids, the more they ate that veggie. Here they discuss carrots, “As the amount of carrots the kids were given increased, from 30 grams to 60 grams (about a half cup) to 90 grams, so did the amount eaten. Doubling the portion size of the carrots resulted in the kids eating 47% more.” The kids ate up to twice the amount- but after that there was no effect. Studies have also shown that kids are more likely to try new foods if they helped prepare them or grew them from a garden.
10 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits & Veggies:
- Serve fruits and veggies with every meal or snack. Kids need about 1.5 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables every day. Make half the veggies leafy greens or orange veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruits on the counter. Refrigerate cut up fruits and vegetables in small bags for easy snacks on the run.
- Encourage kids to be experimental and let them regularly taste-test different veggies. Trying new foods helps kids to grow into adventurous eaters. Try pairing some new foods with some of their favorites. Praise your child for being brave and trying new foods.
- Offer small tastes at first and introduce one new food at a time. Try to offer new foods at the beginning of the meal when they are hungry.
- Make food fun and beautiful. Give a veggie a clever name. Mix up the textures of foods (cooked pureed veggies or raw veggies with a dipping sauce). Mix up the temperatures of foods (serve cool, raw veggies with a warm soup). Mix up the colors on their plate. Serve a rainbow of colored foods (brown rice, black beans, red tomatoes, and greens or broccoli).
- Involve them in shopping, prepping and cooking. Let them help set the table, bring food to the table, chop herbs and greens with safe scissors, crack eggs, and be in charge of stirring. Here are some quick tips on involving kids in cooking and shopping.
- Stay positive and be patient. Kids may take a while to warm up to veggies. Studies show some kids need to be offered a food up to ten times before they will taste it. Keep re-introducing the new food periodically. Don’t give up.
- Plant a small vegetable garden. Research shows kids are more accepting of veggies and eat more of them when they plant them themselves.
- Add a little dip, butter, or cheese. A tiny bit won’t hurt them and it might make it more palatable for them.
- Set a good example. Kids pick up on adult attitudes towards foods. Eat at the table with them and encourage conversation about how the food tastes, smells and looks. Eat your veggies too.
Galloping Good Eggplant
- ½ cup eggplant, diced
- ½ cup fresh mushrooms, diced
- ¾ cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ¾ oz. mozzarella cheese
Add oil to skillet. Sauté eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes in skillet until tender but cooked. Drain off extra juice and top with cheese. Let it melt. Makes 1½ cups of vegetables.
Recipe adapted from Produce for Better Health Foundation.