Ask the Expert – Developing a Taste for Fruits and Veggies

Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

This week, Family Physician Dr. Michelle May offers a few tips on helping your toddler develop a taste for fruits and veggies.

MichelleMay

Michelle May, M.D.
  • Family Physician
  • Graduate of the University of Arizona College of Medicine
  • Founder of the award-winning Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program
  • Author of “H is for Healthy – Weight Management for Kids”
  • Author of “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle” (available October 2009)
  • Website: Am I hungry
  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Twitter: @EatWhatYouLove

Question:My 2-year-old dislikes fruits and vegetables, but I want her to get these important nutrients—and learn to like them. How can I help her develop a taste for them?

Answer:

Congratulations for recognizing the importance of a healthy diet. Only 2% of all children eat the recommended number of servings from all of the food groups. It is common for children to have strong food preferences so it can be a challenge – just don’t make it a battle. Here are ten practical tips:

  1. Relax– having a positive, low-key attitude about eating makes meal time more pleasant and therefore feeding more successful.
  2. Follow the leader – make family meals a high priority and be a great role model by serving and eating a variety of fruits and veggies.
  3. Don’t be a short order cook – fix one balanced meal for everyone in the family. Remember, it is your responsibility to decide what you will offer but it is up to them whether they will eat it.
  4. Make it fun – when my kids were small, we played Guess the Color. They closed their eyes and tried to guess the color of the food I put in their mouth. They were having too much fun to realize that the most colorful foods happen to be vegetables.
  5. Serve the vegetables first – they are more likely to eat them when they are hungry.
  6. Don’t bribe or reward children for eating certain foods -they quickly realize that those foods must be yucky if you have to bribe them to eat them. They also learn to hold out until the reward is offered.
  7. Involve your child in shopping for, preparing and serving food – they are more likely to eat it because they participated in the process. At two, my son’s job was to tear up the lettuce and drop it in the bowl. The first time he helped, we made the mistake of telling him to tear it into “bite-sized pieces.” You guessed it…he bit off pieces of the lettuce and spit them into the bowl!
  8. Be creative – add carrots to spaghetti sauce, spinach to meat loaf, tomatoes to toasted cheese and bananas to peanut butter sandwiches. Keep fresh fruit and cut up vegetables handy for snack time and offer fruit-based desserts.
  9. Easy on the juice and “fruit drinks” – they don’t pack much of a nutritional punch and may just add unnecessary sugar to your child’s diet.
  10. Don’t give up!It can take up to ten exposures to a particular food before a child will accept it. Maybe she doesn’t like steamed broccoli and cauliflower but will have fun dipping fresh Trees and Clouds into a little ranch dressing.

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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.

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