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.
We all know that growing children need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. But getting them to actually do that is every parent’s most difficult challenge. This week, Registered Dietitian Trish O’Keefe offers 10 ways to get your kids eating (and loving) fruits and vegetables.
|Trish O’ Keefe, RD
Question: How can I get my child to love eating fruits and veggies?
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 our 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.
Top 10 Ways to Get Kids Eating (and Loving) Vegetables
- Serve them. As obvious as it sounds, serve veggies with every meal or snack. Young kids need about 2-3 cups of vegetables every day. Make half the veggies leafy greens or orange veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
- Display them. Keep a bowl of fresh vegetables on the counter. Refrigerate cut up vegetables in small bags or containers for easy snacking so they’re ready to go.
- Experiment. Encourage kids to be experimental and let them regularly taste-test different veggies. By trying new foods, kids are more likely to grow into adventurous eaters. Try pairing some new foods with some of their favorites. Don’t forget to praise your child for being brave and trying new foods.
- Taste-test. 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.
- Beautify. Try to make food fun and beautiful. Cut veggies up into fun shapes, such as cubes or matchsticks. Make the plate beautiful using color. Serve a rainbow of foods, such as white fish, brown rice, red tomatoes, and green broccoli.
- Vary your cooking style. Try using different textures and temperatures of foods. For an exciting change, alternate between pureed, lightly cooked, roasted, and raw veggies. Along the same lines, alternate between serving veggies cool with a chilled dip and heated in a casserole or warm soup.
- Name it. Give a veggie a clever name, such Fire Engine Red Peppers, Sunshine Yellow Squash, and Mighty Strong Spinach.
- Involve kids. Let kids help out with the food 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 more quick tips on involving kids in cooking and shopping.
- Plant veggies. Try planting a small vegetable garden, if you have the space, or a tomato plant. Research shows kids are more accepting of veggies and eat more of them when they plant them themselves.
- 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. So eat your veggies too!
Remember, kids may take a while to warm up to veggies. Try to be patient. Studies show some kids need to be offered a food up to ten times or more before they will taste it.
Don’t give up and stay positive.
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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.