(This post is part of the April series, Spring Clean Your Eating Habits. You can catch up on the previous articles in this series here.)
So, your kids don't want to eat more fruits and vegetables? Our kids didn't always want to either. Here are a few things that have worked to remedy that situation:
1. Make it convenient. Keeping a supply of ready-to-go fruits and vegetables in our produce drawer makes it much more likely that someone will grab it for a snack. This might mean 10 minutes here and there slicing and soaking apples, peeling and cutting up carrots, and dicing up pineapple...but it's time well-spent!
2. Try new and different kinds. You might be surprised at what your kids say they like! Just because they won't eat bananas doesn't mean they won't like oranges. Our 6-year-old loves grapefruit, and our 3-year-old will eat blackberries and kiwi. It's no surprise to me that they all like corn, but it was kind of funny to hear them talk about how much they liked cabbage the night I served that.
3. Dip it. If our kids are eating raw carrots, celery, and yellow peppers, I'm certainly not going to put up a fuss if they want to dip their veggies in Ranch, hummus, guacamole, or even ketchup! They're still reaping the benefits of the vegetables. As well, offering a dip for apples makes it less likely that they'll complain about eating the peels. If you're trying to avoid processed foods, you can always mix up your own dressings and dips rather than using the store-bought versions. (More on that later this month.)
4. Get them excited about where it came from. Grow it in your backyard (like I'm one to talk), take them to pick fruit from the local orchard or field, visit a farmer's market, join a CSA. And then talk about it at dinnertime!
5. Offer choices. "Do you want strawberries or an apple?" or "Would you like to dip your carrots in Ranch dressing or hummus?" or even "Would you like to have a cookie or some kiwi?" (I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes, when given the choice, the kids will actually pick the healthier option. This works well if you don't outright ban all sweets from your home, so they know the sweet option will be there next time too.)
6. Don't offer choices. "We are having fruit with our lunch." or "Sorry, I know you like green beans, but we're having cauliflower tonight, so just take a few bites before you decide you don't like it." or "No, you may not have a bedtime snack if you don't finish your corn."
7. Make it a salad. If you're trying to transition to healthier eating but your kids think fruit only comes mixed with thick juice in a can, try mixing up a fruit salad. Use equal parts of your favorite fresh fruit, and use fruit-flavored yogurt as the "sauce". (Or don't use any sauce at all.) You can even throw in some canned (drained) peaches or mandarin oranges for familiarity's sake. As well, my kids don't like cooked spinach...but if I use fresh spinach and make it a salad, they'll eat it. (I wonder if the bacon, egg, and sweet dressing have anything to do with that?)
8. Make smoothies. A couple of our kids went through stages when they wouldn't eat fruit. No fruit at all. Nothing. So we hauled out the blender and whirled up loads of fresh fruit, a little bit of orange or apple juice, and some yogurt. Three kid-sized servings of fruit were sucked down through a straw with no fuss at all. Of course, apples don't really work for this, and neither do oranges. But peaches, pears, berries, and bananas all make great smoothie ingredients. If you're really brave, you can throw in a handful of fresh spinach and make it a green smoothie! (More on that later this month.)
9. Bake it. Banana bread, zucchini muffins, prune cake, morning glory muffins, and even chocolate beet cake are all delicious options that we've tried. It's a great way for kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables because they think they're eating a sweet. And technically, they are eating a sweet, since most baked goods include sugar. But they're still getting the good stuff!
10. Try new ways to prepare vegetables. Case in point: our kids will pick the mushrooms out of casseroles, but they'll eat Grilled Mushrooms by the pound. In addition, they don't like boiled asparagus, but they'll eat more stalks than me if I prepare it this way. This article has some great tips on cooking vegetables. Oven-roasting is a new favorite of our family, and we hope to try more grilled vegetables this summer.
11. Hide it. You can puree a variety of cooked vegetables and add them to sauces and soups. This is not something I have ever tried, but if you're really desperate, it might be worth a shot. Here is one example and here is an entire cookbook written on this topic!
I hope these ideas will be helpful for you as you try to include more fruits and vegetables in your kids' diets. Just do your best...and remember that you can make a kid put a carrot in her mouth, but you can't make her chew it or swallow it! (Yup, speaking from experience here!) I employ most of the above strategies, but there are still days when our kids turn up their noses at the fruit and vegetable options.
How do you get your kids to eat their veggies?
This article is part of April's series, Spring Clean Your Eating Habits. Head over here to find previous articles in this series.