Here’s how to get children — and adults — to eat more vegetables.
June 17 is National Eat All Your Veggies Day — part of National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month.
Eat All Your Veggies Day is meant to encourage people to eat more vegetables, try an unfamiliar veggie or re-introduce a long-lost favorite (asparagus, anyone?). For carnivores, try this challenge: Eat as a vegetarian today.
Vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, fiber and other nutrients that are especially important for growth during childhood and adolescence. It can be difficult, however, to get children to eat enough vegetables to meet their daily needs. This often results in a dinner-table battle, in which parents bribe their kids to get a few bites down. What’s a better way to get our kiddos to love their veggies?
Practice what you preach.
Children are more open to eating vegetables when they see their parents eating veggies on a regular basis. Parents can cultivate a love of veggies in their kids by eating plenty of vegetables themselves — so, open mouth, insert broccoli!
Try, try again. And then try some more.
It can take eight to 10 attempts to get a child to accept a new food. Young taste buds find the flavor of many vegetables too bitter, but taste buds mature and find flavors more pleasing as we grow. Exposure to a variety of flavors paves the path for a veggie-lover.
Make it fun.
Vegetables have a whimsical quality. They’re colorful, come in different shapes and can be fun to play games with (even though grandma says not to play with food!). Keep the tone lighthearted at the table, rather than a stern eat-your-vegetables-or-else approach. Create a positive environment that encourages children to try something new.
When all else fails, hide ’em.
Vegetables are versatile in color, texture and flavor. They can be hidden in a range of dishes. Try swapping half of the mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower, mixing pureed edamame or peas with avocado for delicious guacamole, or blending a few handfuls of spinach in your child’s smoothie (disguise it in an opaque cup with a lid). Veggies can be incorporated in some form or fashion in just about any dish.
This post was written by Hope Anderson, a health nut, former Miss Louisiana, flea market fanatic and lover of beets. She completed a residency in nutrition through a dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.