Getting your kids to eat their fruits and veggies just takes a little time and creativity. And it also helps if you set a good example.
By Christina Khoury, clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital
School is in full swing and the holiday season is right around the corner. This is the time of year where everyone is busy, and sometimes healthy eating gets placed on the backburner. Here are a few tips to make it easy for your family to stay on track with healthy food choices.
Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients, which are important for healthy bodies. They are also full of dietary fiber, which helps regulate bowel function and provides fullness with fewer calories. More than that, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, fruits and vegetables reduce the risk for chronic (life-long) diseases and may even protect against certain types of cancers.
Tip #1: Get your kids involved
- Children are more likely to eat foods they have helped choose or prepare, so why not make it a fun family activity?
- Take your kids to the grocery store or local farmers market and have them pick out a new fruit or vegetable. You can use this time to teach them how their fruit or vegetable of choice is grown and where it comes from.
- Together, you can look for a recipe that includes their ingredient of choice.
- Finally, allow them to help you make the recipe (how much help may depend on their age).
Tip # 2: Make it fun and get creative!
- Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of fruits such as watermelon or cantaloupe!
- Add a handful of spinach to a fruit smoothie that contains blueberries (to mask the green color) for some extra nutrients and no added taste. You can even pour your mixture into an ice tray and freeze it to make smoothie cubes for a hot day.
- Cut up celery stalk, fill the inside crest with peanut butter or your nut butter of choice, and add raisins on top to make “ants on a log.”
- Freeze grapes or sliced bananas for some flavored bites.
- Shred zucchini or squash and add it in when making a casserole.
- Add pumpkin puree to tomato sauce when making a pizza from scratch.
- Add chopped spinach, onions or mushrooms to meat sauces.
- Use pureed, cooked vegetables to thicken soups and stews.
- Use spaghetti squash or zoodles (zucchini noodles) in place of pasta.
- Dip vegetables in hummus or Greek yogurt-based ranch to enhance the flavor.
- Dip fruits in vanilla Greek yogurt, peanut butter or add low-fat cheese to enhance the flavor.
Tip # 3: Make it available and set an example
- Cut up fruits and vegetables and place them in a clear plastic container at the front of the fridge for easy access and reach.
- Repeatedly expose your child to new food without pressure of any kind. It may take up to 15 presentations of a food before a child is willing to eat it.
- Be a good role model. Eat your own fruits and vegetables and your child will likely do the same. After all, children learn from what they see.
I hope these tips are helpful in getting you on your way to making lasting changes in your child’s life!