It’s one of the epic battles of parenthood: getting your kids to eat healthy food. You plead, beg, threaten, scream, and maybe even ask nicely, but nothing seems to get them interested in the greener side of the plate. Don’t give up. They need to eat those veggies as vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are an important part of the growth and development of your kids. Don’t force it though. Kids are often less inclined to do things they are told they have to do or when the act becomes some form of punishment. Eating well shouldn’t be a punishment. Be patient and give them time to get used to those veggies. Here are a few helpful tips to get them to enjoy more fruits and vegetables in the future.
Start Young – Kids are naturally leery of new foods of any kind so introduce them to more earlier. If they are used to those vegetables and fruits and knew them from the moment they first picked up solid food, they’ll be more likely to continue eating them throughout their life.
Be a Good Example – Kids pick up on what their parents do and say, sometimes at the worst possible times and in the worst possible ways. If kids see a parent picking at their own veggies, how can we expect them to be happy to eat them? Try to be an example of healthy food choices. Eat your veggies and reach for fruits as snacks. Your kids will do the same.
Catch Them Hungry – Hunger makes just about anything taste better. Give your kids a good dose of veggies on a day you know they will be starving and more willing to eat whatever you put in front of them. Spent a day at the lake or just got back from a hike? That’s the best time to give them healthy food.
Make Soup – Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of hearty vegetable soup on a cool day? Throw some alphabet pasta in with the vegetables and they can play, spell, and eat well all at the same time. Tomato soup is another way to get kids to eat some good vegetables. You can easily blend in other veggies like carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, and even spinach without them ever being the wiser.
Juice – Fresh made juice is a great way for kids to get something sweet that has antioxidants and plenty of nutrients. The flavors of most juices aren’t affected much by a few veggies either. Cucumber, zucchini, kale, spinach, and more can be juiced with fruits. If the color gets weird, play that up as a feature (Shrek juice, swamp princess potion, etc.).
Smoothies – Don’t have a juicer? Don’t worry. You can make delicious fruit smoothies with a bit of veggies. Berries and tropical fruit mask any hint of veggie flavor. Add ice to make a frozen yogurt effect that they can eat with a spoon. They’ll be getting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plenty of fiber while thinking they’re eating a dessert.
Dip Them – Many kids love to dip foods, no matter what those foods are or what the dip is made from. Give them some raw veggies and a few dip options. Ranch isn’t the healthiest, but it’s better than nothing if it gets them to eat a handful of vegetables. Hummus as a dip is a better choice. Guacamole works too. You can make a healthier ranch by blending herbs and spices with avocado and some almond milk.
Artwork – Give them a mix of bright colored fruits and vegetables in an array of sizes, shapes, and slices. Let them paint their plate, making scenery and faces. They will then enjoy eating their creation.
Sneak Them – Some kids will fight veggies no matter how you present them. That’s when you start hiding the healthy food. Puree veggies into your marinara sauce. Drizzle a creamy sauce over broccoli. Try sweet potatoes for healthier and more exciting mashed potatoes and feel free to blend in carrots, cauliflower, or turnips for more nutrition.
Cut Out the Junk Food – You are the parent who ultimately makes the decisions about what food ends up in the fridge and pantry. Get less junk food and kids will more readily turn to fruits and veggies for snacks. Probably better for you to not have the temptations around either.
Shop With Them – Getting kids involved with the process creates a sense of responsibility and ownership that encourages kids to try new foods. Let them pick out their favorite fruits or vegetables, even the bizarre ones you may have no idea how to use. They will be excited to try what they chose and you’ll learn more about food too.
Garden With Them – It doesn’t matter if you plow a huge section of your backyard or just get a few pots and grow something on the patio, kids who garden eat more vegetables. It, once again, creates a sense of responsibility and ownership. Let them choose what to plant and let them do some of the watering and caring for the little plants. They will want to try what they have grown and they will have a better sense of where healthy food comes from that will stick with them forever.
Cook With Them – Kids love to be involved and included. They also love to do things that feel grown up, like shopping, gardening, and cooking. Let them help with the cooking, even if they can only wash the veggies you will peel and cut. Once again, they will take pride and ownership in the finished product, making them far more likely to eat what they feel they helped create.
All Veggie Meal – Have a meal every now and again where there are no temptation foods whatsoever for the kids or you to favor. If all they have to eat are vegetables and fruits, they will choose their favorites and eat those. Not eating one healthy food when presented with several is a much better option than refusing to eat the only healthy thing on the plate.
Give Praise – Some parents don’t like to bribe their kids to eat healthy foods, but some bribery is healthy. Give them praise for eating the good foods on the plate. Offer them stickers if they eat a certain amount of veggies. These encourage kids to eat well and the habit tends to stick, even years later when the rewards are no longer offered.
You should also look into a few other ways to get your kids some of the nutrition they need. Liquid vitamins and minerals are easy for kids to take and can be snuck into juice, smoothies, soups, and sauces. Don’t forget about probiotics for kids. It’s important to keep their digestive and immune systems running at their best.