I am often asked by parents for tips on how to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables. I have put together my top tips on this for you. At another time I will do a post on picky eaters but remember for all children that it is the parent’s responsibility to offer healthy foods. It is the child’s responsibility what and how much they eat. So that being said, here are some tips.
- Snacks are not the enemy! It breaks my heart when parents tell me that they do not let their kids have snacks so that they will eat more at meals. Our goal as parents is not to have our children eat large meals. Our goal is to offer nutritious food to our children. So, snacks are far from the enemy. Common snack foods, on the other hand, can be a problem. Where we get into trouble is when kids fill up on puffs and goldfish and then don’t have enough room left for healthy foods. For healthy snacks, offer fresh veggies and fruit to your kids while they are playing. You can also offer other healthy foods such as cheese, yogurt, whole grain crackers etc. with the fruit and vegetables. Children prefer to graze. They have small tummies. Make the most of the food they eat but offering high nutrient dense foods at all times.
- Appetizers! While I am preparing lunch and supper I like to give my kids a bowl of vegetables. For example, cucumber slices, pepper slivers, baby carrots, small pieces of broccoli or cauliflower, etc. This has two main purposes. The first is that they will eat more veggies this way as it is the only food in front of them and secondly, it helps keep them occupied while I am trying to get their meal together. It’s a win-win!
- Toddlers LOVE to dip! So offer your child a healthy dip with their veggies (and any other food for that matter). See my previous post on making healthy dips here.
- Serve fruit before anything else at breakfast time and serve fruit for dessert at lunch and supper. My twins still think that fruit is a huge treat. They seldom ask for cookies or ice cream at the end of a meal. In fact, we were out for supper last night and the waitress offered them ice cream or a brownie and they asked for blueberries. She was so impressed that she found them some blueberries! At home they ask for pomegranate seeds or melon or berries or pear or apple or grapes (you get the idea) because they have always had these sweet (and nutritious) treats at the start of the day and at the end of meals. We established this habit early and hopefully it sticks with them for life. Sometimes they do ask for less nutritious food and at that time, I choose to allow them a treat (to support the idea of moderation) or use it as a teaching moment about the importance of choosing healthy foods.
- Always offer choice. Autonomy is a big deal to children, so capitalize on this by offering your kids two healthy options. For example: Would you like carrots or cucumber with your lunch? Would you like apple or pear for dessert?
- They will do what you do. Babies, toddlers, and young children are incredibly impressionable and LOVE to mimic mom and dad. We need to model the behaviors we want to see. Our kids need to see us snacking on fruits and veggies and filling our plates with healthy foods at meal times. Enjoy some cut up peppers, cucumber, and carrots with your children while supper is cooking. Share an apple with them after supper. Put berries on your cereal and theirs.
As a final note, have fun with food with your kids!!! I have the twins help me make a grocery list and they do most of the grocery shopping with myself and/or my husband. When they get to pick out which head of broccoli or cauliflower we are going to take home to cook, they are more likely to be excited about eating it.
Hope this helps to get you and your kids eating more antioxidant rich foods this summer!