Meal times don’t always have to be a battle over those greens. By Deborah Lin
Introduce fruits and veggies to your child slowly. (Photo: Serhiy Kobyakov / www.123rf.com)
My youngest recently started eating vegetables without me having to bribe or threaten her to. It was a cause for celebration and I announced it as such on social media (as I did the time my oldest declared she loved vegetables). It was hardly surprising when other mummy friends asked me how I managed to get my kids to eat their fruits and veggies.
Kids, fruits and vegetables are a recipe for disaster at meal times, but they don’t have to be so. Here are six ways to get your kids to eat fruits and veggies:
1. Mum and Dad need to eat their greens too
I never liked vegetables, but I started loading up on greens when I was expecting and continue to finish them at every meal now. You can’t expect Junior to finish his fruits and veggies if you don’t eat them yourself. Also, eat together as a family so meal times become something the kids look forward to.
2. Introduce fruits and veggies slowly
Neophobia, or fear of the new, is very real for children. It usually occurs from two years of age until seven, and in this case, it’s when they are scared of new foods. Instead of losing your temper (I know it’s hard!), encourage them to eat at least one bite of that cauliflower. Studies show it can take up to fifteen times for a child to get accustomed to the taste of a new food. And always start with a small serving and then ask if they want seconds. When that happens, remember to serve it up with lots of praise!
3. Skip whole fruits and vegetables
Infants might happily eat pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables when first starting on solids. But it could change as they grow older and become fussier (see #2). If kids reject whole fruits or veggies, try giving them juices (equal parts water and store-bought juice, max once a day), hidden veg pasta sauces, soups (try this delicious broccoli potato soup) or even vegetable or apple chips (make your own by toasting thin slices). You can always start them on whole fruits and vegetables later on.
4. Make it easier for them to eat fruits and veggies
“I don’t like carrot” might not just be about its taste. Sometimes, children pass up on certain foods because it is difficult to chew or swallow, but they are unable to verbalise it. Help your child out with hard fruits and vegetables by dicing carrots finely so they can down it easily with a spoon, or give them unskinned apples for instance.
5. Let them choose an accompanying dip
Most times though, kids do hate the taste of veggies. As a treat (make sure to tell them so), let the kids have their vegetables with a drizzle of honey or dipped in some mayo or ketchup. The key here is just a touch of their choice condiment with their greens – you’ll be surprised how much the kids will gobble up!
6. Make eating fruits and vegetables fun
To encourage my kids to eat fruits, we started having “fruit parties”. I chopped up fruits, placed them in colourful bowls and we all had a great big picnic on the living room floor. We also have shindigs with yogurt and their choice of fruits and candies. Recently, my daughters (aged five and two) have asked to choose their own vegetables at salad bars too. And I’ve heard other mums refer to broccoli as “little trees” or “dinosaur food”. Try it!
Tell us, how do you encourage your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables?