The battle between children and a plate of peas is as old as time. While you may have assumed other parents struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables, what you may not have realized is that diet experts go through the same torturous trials. We all know that eating fruits and vegetables is important. But how do you get kids to eat more of these foods?
Feeding Fussy Pre-schoolers
If you have fussy kids, keep offering them lots of different fruit and veg, but try to avoid putting too much pressure on. The NHS says the trick is not to worry about what they eat in a day or whether they eat everything at mealtimes, but instead think about what they eat over a week.
Here are top tips for feeding fussy pre-school children and toddlers from Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of ‘The Gentle Eating Book: The Easier, Calmer Approach to Feeding Your Child and Solving Common Eating Problems’.
Teach your child what an appropriate amount of salad dressing is and how it can be ordered on the side at restaurants.
Take pressure off. If you cajole, bribe, cheer, clap or reward them for eating, they are less likely to eat the food again of their own accord. Similarly, if you restrict certain more palatable foods or use them as a reward, for instance offering dessert if they eat all their main meal, they are more likely to struggle with self-regulating in the future.
Forget punishments. Punishing a child for fussy eating is unlikely to improve the situation, and it could make it worse. Try to avoid making a fuss if they refuse to eat a food or if they eat something new.
Make food fun. If you can, grow veg together, visit farmer’s markets, cook together and play with food – for instance, carrot and potato printing or making broccoli trees to hide dinosaurs in. Read storybooks featuring different foods, watch cartoons with their favourite characters eating adventurously and consider buying plates featuring pictures of vegetables.
Go back to instinctive eating. Trust your child if they say they’re hungry, even if they have just eaten – and if they say they’re not, even if they’ve not eaten for hours.
Tips for Parents
Your kids wont benefit from constant instructions, you need to make the task easier for them. Here are a few ways you can take two steps forward:
- Provide fruits and vegetables as snacks. Keep fruit washed, cut up and in plain sight in the refrigerator.
- Serve salads more often. Get prewashed, bagged salad at the grocery store. Teach your child what an appropriate amount of salad dressing is and how it can be ordered on the side at restaurants.
- Try out vegetarian recipes for spaghetti, lasagna, chili, or other foods using vegetables instead of meat.
- Include at least one leafy green or yellow vegetable for vitamin A such as spinach, broccoli, winter squash, greens, or carrots each day.
- Include at least one vitamin C–rich fruit or vegetable, such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, melon, tomato, and broccoli each day.
- Add a fruit or vegetable as part of every meal or snack. For example, you could put fruit on cereal, add a piece of fruit or small salad to your child’s lunch, use vegetables and dip for an after-school snack, or add a vegetable or two you want to try to the family’s dinner.
- Be a role model—eat more fruits and vegetables yourself.
By choosing health-promoting foods, you can establish good nutritional habits in your child that will last for the rest of his or her life. Just a few tips and tricks can promote necessary growth that your child might be missing out on.