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6 Tips To Help Your Children Enjoy More Vegetables & Fruits

Fruits and vegetables deliver important nutrients for a growing body.  They support the healthy development of the brain, bones, eyes and muscles.  And, eating enough fruits and vegetables is related to a lower risk for diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.  Yet, research shows that only one out of four children ages 6-11 years old get enough fruit and less than 20% get enough vegetables each day.1

Clearly, it may be a challenge for children to fill half their plate with vegetables and fruits at each meal.  But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. 

Here are 6 great ways to get your children to choose vegetables and fruits more often.

1) Make Vegetables & Fruits Available.

 If vegetables and fruits are not available, your children simply can’t eat them.  From strawberries to radishes and from broccoli to beets, when purchasing food at the grocery store, be sure to include plenty healthy produce in your cart.  Then, when arriving home from the grocery store, wash and chop the produce and set it at eye level in the refrigerator as a reminder to you (and them!) to eat more, more often.

And, remember that it is not just the at-home environment that determines eating behaviors.  Consider the food that is available to your children when they are on the go, when they are at day care, when they are at school or at afterschool activities.  So that healthy foods are available, pack a to-go container with broccoli and hummus or cauliflower and guacamole as a nutrient-dense snack when outside the house.

2)      Make Vegetables & Fruits Familiar.

If your child doesn’t try sautéed BroccoLeaf the first time you prepare it, don’t worry!  It can take several times (some research says up to 6 times!) of exposure to a new vegetable or fruit before children feel familiar and comfortable with trying and liking it.2  Besides serving those foods often at the kitchen table, picture books and television shows offering visuals of healthy foods can increase familiarity and exposure, too.3

3)      Make Vegetables & Fruits Taste Good.

 It’s pretty simple: vegetables and fruits should taste good in order for children to enjoy eating them.  In fact, even infants desire sweet and salty foods (as opposed to bitter foods)!  For better food acceptance, try warm, brightly colored, mild flavored, and slightly crunchy vegetables like this Simple Cauliflower Fried Rice.

4)      Have Fun with Vegetables & Fruits.

Build a fun environment that allows children to be creative with their produce, like using food as art.  With chopped vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors, put together the pieces to create animals, cars, houses or other objects.  Cut carrots into circles to make coins, use broccoli florets as green trees, or finely chop fresh greens to look like confetti or grass in your child’s edible artwork.

5)      Show Positive Encouragement.

Being positive, rather than punitive, may help children eat their produce and have a healthy relationship with food.  It takes an average of 2.5 prompts from a parent before a child tries a new food, so use encouraging statements frequently.4

6)      Be a Healthy Role Model.

When parents eat well, kids do too.  In fact, when parents eat fruit or green salads at dinner, children are more likely to eat those foods, too.5  Try this Autumn Power Salad at dinner or baked pears for an after-dinner treat.  Remember: they’re watching you!


Which one of these tips do you think will help your child eat well?  Share your comments with us over on Facebook at YESNutritionLLC and Foxy Produce!


Looking for ways to get your teens in the kitchen?  Get these ideas, here!

 

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References:


1. Lorsen BA, Melgar-Quinonez HR, Taylor CA. Correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes in US children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):474-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.11.022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...

 

2. Anzman-Frasca S, Savage JS, Marini ME, et al. Repeated exposure and associative conditioning promote preschool children's liking of vegetables. Appetite. 2012 Apr;58(2):543-53. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.11.012. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

 

3. Heath P, Houston-Price C, Kennedy OB. Increasing food familiarity without the tears. A role for visual exposure? Appetite. 2011 Dec;57(3):832-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.05.315. Epub 2011 May 27.

 

4. Edelson LR, Mokdad C, Martin N. Prompts to eat novel and familiar fruits and vegetables in families with 1-3 year-old children: Relationships with food acceptance and intake. Appetite. 2016 Apr 1;99:138-48. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.015. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

 

5. Draxten M, Fulkerson JA, Friend S, Flattum CF, Schow R. Parental role modeling of fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks is associated with children’s adequate consumption. Appetite. 2014;78:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.017.

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