Q. I am the mother of two young children. Unfortunately, they have adopted their father’s dislike of fruits and vegetables. How can I get them to eat their vegetables?
A. In a world of catchy fast-food jingles and brightly packaged carbohydrates, we need to approach fruits and vegetables with as much gusto as the multi-billion dollar corporations. We need to sell the product.
Here are a few tips to get your children (and maybe your husband) to nibble on produce.
Accentuate the positive: If your child thinks the green beans are going to be soggy, boring and bland, they’re more likely to hate eating them. Give your child a reason to think a vegetable might be good, maybe include a favorite relative: "Grandma loves green beans made just like this." You can also talk up the place of origin: "These avocados are from Mexico. Have you heard of Mexico?" If your kid is intrigued by the place, he may give the food a fighting chance.
Give up power: Kids like power, much like adults. You can give it to them by letting them choose among alternatives: tomatoes or corn? Spinach or peppers? Or, let them choose a fruit and vegetable at the store each week. It's all about ownership. If you give them a variety of things, then the ownership becomes, “What do I want?” They can still think they are the commander of the food situation.
Sell the product: Giving vegetables cool names such as "X-Ray Vision Carrots" or "Dinosaur Trees" (broccoli), has been shown to be effective in increasing consumption. You might feel silly, but imagine how much more appealing broccoli is if you can roar like a dinosaur and bite the top off of a tree. I bet your husband would even have fun.
Dip it: It is simple, dipping is just plain fun. Cut fruits and vegetables into sticks and let them dip. Yes, most dips are mostly fat, salt or sugar, but it is better to eat your produce with dip than not eat it at all. Ranch, hummus, plain Greek yogurt, caramel, whipped cream cheese, cheese and even ketchup are dipping options.
Change it: Don’t just serve your vegetables and fruits plain, as a side dish. Chop them up and add to casseroles, pizza, sandwiches and smoothies. Top with a little shredded or parmesan cheese. Spend some time looking for delicious recipes and ways to spice up your produce.
Relax: Don’t pressure your child into eating fruits and vegetables. The best way to encourage your child to eat their vegetables is to continually offer a variety and to be a good role model (both you AND your husband) by getting in your produce servings each day.
Give it time: It may take a little time before your little darlings are jumping at the opportunity to eat Brussels sprouts or tomatoes, but keep trying. They won’t learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables if they aren’t served.