Encouraging children to eat veggies in fun ways

It’s no secret that children can be difficult to convince when it comes to trying new things. The website Choose MyPlate, sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture, recommends half our plate be filled with fruits and vegetables. This can be daunting to parents who struggle to get their kids to take a bite of vegetable at the dinner table.

Iowa State University has completed many studies on getting children to try new foods. Children’s taste buds are still developing. Their studies show marketing has had a huge impact on the foods children desire. Unfortunately, all those commercials aren’t about broccoli. ISU recommends varying food preparation, positive role modeling, letting children choose some foods, including children in shopping and cooking, and offering fruit and vegetable snacks.

Change up how vegetables/ fruit are prepared:

Your child may not like certain vegetables raw.

Sautee them next time.

When you make green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, don’t tell them what’s in it unless they ask. It’s okay to let them have veggies that aren’t prepared in the healthiest way if it gets them to try them. Even a vegetable covered in a cream mushroom sauce is still a vegetable. Eventually children developed a taste for vegetables or fruit made in various ways.

Be a good role model:

Ultimately, children watch everything the adults in their lives do, especially their parents. If they don’t see you eating fruits or vegetables, they are unlikely to want to try them.

Develop a healthy diet for your child to imitate.

Let children choose:

Give children options. If you are wondering whether you should make carrots or broccoli with dinner, why not ask your child? Children are more likely to eat something they chose. Studies find saying “clean your plate” is not an effective way to get kids to eat new foods.

Don’t force something they don’t like on them because it may just become a power struggle.

Include children in grocery shopping: Let children touch those veggies and put them in the cart. Give each child an item to select. For those who don’t yet read, a picture list works.

Include children in cooking: Children are excited to help, even if it’s just tossing salad. Getting them involved may be a step toward getting them to try foods that include fruits and vegetables.

Offer fruits and vegetables for snacks: It’s just as easy to throw together a plate of veggies as it is other snack options. Even if the child picks out the only veggie they like on the plate, they picked a veggie.

Offer a fruit or vegetable with every meal and don’t give up. Choose MyPlate has many videos, songs, activities and games that are a great tool for parents to use to help educate and encourage children to eat fruits and vegetables. Take advantage! https://www.choos emyplate.gov/kids

Lidia Kalsow is a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay student and a dietetic intern for the UW-Extension FoodWIse Program