Kids eat vegetables. If you're lucky. Getting picky kids to eat vegetables and fruits can be a real challenge. As mom to a very (VERY!) picky eater, I know. Even adventurous young eaters may shy away from spinach, broccoli and other good-for-you choices. As parents, we want our children to grow up healthy and strong, with a good relationship with food. Read on to learn how to encourage your child to try veggies and fruits.
This story is brought to you in partnership with Ruby Rocket's and Trekaroo.
These tips are based on my experience with my own vegetable- and fruit-phobic child (and his produce-loving big sister), as well as lessons learned from parenting classes and food counseling sessions.
Kids eat vegetables more readily with natural consequences and no pressure.
Eating is one of the few things children can control in their lives. Too much pressure from parents and other well-meaning adults often backfires, creating more resistance to healthy foods.
Whenever our cautious 8-year-old takes a bite of a new food, my husband and I are sure NOT to look at him or make a big deal about it. When he took his first-ever bite of broccoli last week, I calmly said, “I had a feeling you'd like broccoli. I'm proud of you for trying something new.” Then we moved on with our meal. We did not clap, insist he take another bite, or mention it for the rest of dinner.
Our household rule is that we must eat a protein plus a fruit or vegetable with dinner to earn dessert. Once our bodies have the healthy foods we need, we can indulge in a sweet. Linking eating vegetables to another treat (like playing with technology) does not make a logical tie-in and therefore feels more like punishment rather than a natural consequence. Kids eat vegetables. Kids get dessert!
Kids eat vegetables and fruits when it's fun.
Getting out of the usual routine can encourage kids to try new things. During our trip to Maui, my previously juice-phobic son fell in love with POG (Hawaii's official drink: pineapple, orange guava juice). Being in a new and enchanting place helped him to put his guard down to try this fruity elixir.
My son recently stepped outside his food comfort zone at a local teppanyaki restaurant. He normally would balk at eating fried rice filled with vegetables and bits of egg. But watching the chef toss vegetables in the air and set the stove aflame seemed to cast a spell on him. He ate almost every grain of rice in his bowl.
Embrace desserts as a gateway to healthy eating.
Ice cream and smoothies can be the gateway to the exciting world of fruits and vegetables. Even if children won't eat fresh fruits, they'll often gobble them up when added to ice creams, shakes or smoothies.
Frozen bars please even super picky eaters. Kids eat vegetables, and they don't even know it with Ruby Rocket's frozen pops made with real fruits and veggies and no added sugar. They're like smoothies on a stick! They come in eight tempting flavors. My fussy son's favorite flavor is Gravity Grape (made from concord grapes, blueberries, and açaí, plus purple and sweet potato). My fruit-loving daughter's first choice is Rock-It Red (made with strawberries, lemons, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets). For chocolate enthusiasts, try Far Out Fudge (made from açai, sweet potatoes, beets and cocoa).
Ruby Rocket's also makes a non-dairy yogurt alternative, perfect for dessert, lunch boxes, and breakfast or as a travel snack. Check out my picky eater enjoying a Ruby Rocket's frozen pop in the video below. (Filmed and directed by his big sister!)
Kids eat vegetables when they get involved with food selection and preparation.
Purchase a children's cookbook and encourage your kid to choose dishes for the whole family. Bring your child along to the grocery store to select vegetables and fruits to place in the cart. Then get help in the kitchen during meal preparation. Even young children can stir a soup, use a butter knife to slice fruits, or press the buttons on the blender to make a smoothie.
Sometimes it's easier for kids to explore new options away from their parents. If this may be the case with your child, consider a kids-only cooking class.
Kids eat vegetables and fruits when they understand how they grow.
Help children make a connection to what they eat by showing them how food grows. After visiting a corn maze during a preschool field trip, my son enthusiastically volunteered to eat his first cob of corn. Visit an orchard to pick apples or go strawberry picking to build healthy food excitement. Some botanical gardens feature sections that showcase herbs, vegetable patches and fruit trees. Better yet, plant a vegetable garden or a few pots filled with edible plants at home.
Kids eat vegetables when you tell them the truth.
Be careful not to lie about food to your child. My husband and I used to be sneaky in our efforts to get our son to eat healthfully. We told him strawberries were candies and we sneaked pureed squash into homemade macaroni and cheese. This taught our son to distrust us and it increased his fear of new foods. Now, when asked what's in a dish, we tell the truth, even if it means he will likely not try it.
Play time helps kids eat vegetables.
Even if your child won't eat vegetables, he or she can develop a good attitude about them through playtime. Buy plastic or wooden vegetables and fruits to set up a make believe grocery store or restaurant.
My sister made vegetables and fruits seem more appealing when she gifted my then preschooler a bunch of plush toys shaped like broccoli, a strawberry, a peach and more. Sound fun? Check out these produce-shaped finger puppets.
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Ruby’s Naturals, Inc., parent company to Ruby Rockets, makes delicious, healthy, non-dairy fruit and veggie snacks for the whole family. They've been creating organic, non-GMO, real food with no added sugar since 2013. Whether it’s a refreshing non-dairy fruit and veggie ice pop enjoyed best on a hot summer day, or a kid-friendly, non-dairy yogurt alternativeTM convenient for on-the-go occasions, Ruby’s Naturals, Inc. is committed to serving nutritious, yummy snacks that the whole family can enjoy.
Do you struggle to get your picky kid to eat vegetables and fruits? Do you have any additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from Travel Mamas: This story and giveaway are sponsored by Ruby Rockets in partnership with Trekaroo. We will receive compensation related to this post. This post also includes some affiliate links. I am not a healthcare provider. Check with your child's physician with any concerns regarding healthy eating. Top photo by travnikovstudio; purchased from iStockphoto.com.