Getting kids to eat healthier, especially when it comes to eating vegetables and fruit, can be an overwhelming task. Luckily there are ways to gets kids on board with vegetables and fruits without having to coerce or bully them into it. I consider my kids to be above average in the eating-enough-vegetables department and the following tips are how I did it!
How to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
You may have noticed that I wrote vegetables and fruits instead of the other way around. I did this to emphasize the importance of vegetables in the diet. We have to eat lots of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit to be healthy.
Many people see them as one category and assume if we are eating fruit then we are meeting the body’s needs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. So, these tips will help to encourage kids to eat more vegetables (especially) but also more fruit if your child is fruit averse.
Make It a Habit
One of the best ways to get kids to eat more vegetables is to make veggies a regular part of your day. When fruits and veggies are part of every meal, it becomes normal.
My kids see vegetables as part of their meal rather than in addition to their meal, so it’s expected to see lots of vegetables on the table.
Leading by example is also an important part of teaching kids healthy eating habits. When we eat and enjoy vegetables and fruits, our kids will be more likely to try (and like) them too.
Make Fruit a Treat
For some kids, just the thought of eating something “healthy” makes them run in the other direction. If this is true for your kids, try them with fruit first. Many kids find it much easier to enjoy fruit than vegetables, so start there. Teach your kids that while fruit is healthy, it’s also an amazing treat! Try these recipes to get kids on the fruit-is-a-treat boat:
Eating too much fructose (even from fruit) isn’t healthy though, so don’t overdo the fruit! But as an introduction to produce, fruit can be a huge help. You can start including vegetables with fruit dishes too. Pureed squash can be added to fruit popsicles, leafy greens can be added to smoothies, etc.
Kids may not want to try celery the first 10 times it’s served, but eventually, they will get curious and try it (especially if they see you trying it). Additionally, they may not like celery the first time they try it, but they may develop a taste for it after trying it a few times. Unfamiliar tastes can sometimes be misconstrued as bad tastes, so encouraging kids to try things over and over can help.
Change the Attitude
In our family, no one is allowed to complain about food. They can dislike something and choose not to eat it, but complaining is not okay. Food is first for nourishment, which I feel is important to teach kids. Additionally, complaining about food is both rude to the cook and shows a closed-minded attitude.
So, in our family, everyone is expected to sit together at mealtimes (even if they choose not to eat) and have a positive attitude. We see this time as a good opportunity to connect as a family and be mindful of what and how we’re eating.
Get Kids Cooking
When kids participate in preparing meals, they feel ownership and are more likely to try new foods. My kids have learned a lot from taking this course and now regularly help in the kitchen. They have taken on the responsibility of including all healthy foods in meals and snacks and are very open to trying new things because of it!
Here are some easy recipes for kids to cook that contain vegetables and fruits:
- Spinach Artichoke Chicken
- Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry
- Egg Drop Soup
- Pakistani Kima
- Apple Cinnamon Coconut Flour Muffins
I have to admit, I was a little reluctant to let the kids into the kitchen, but I’m so glad I did! They are quite good cooks and are great eaters because of it.
Teach Kids Where Food Comes From
Kids (and adults!) are more engaged with what they’re eating if they know where it is from. So getting to know your vegetables and sharing that knowledge with the kids is a great way to get them interested. You can do this by exploring local farms and farmer’s markets or growing vegetables and fruits yourself.
I want my kids to know how important eating vegetables is, but sometimes the easiest way to get veggies into the kids is to hide them. I don’t lie about the veggies though. After the kids taste the meal and enjoy it I will let them know that there are extra veggies in the recipe. This helps teach them that veggies taste good and that there are many ways to get enough veggies each day. Here are some of my favorite hidden veggie recipes:
- Zesty Radish Cream Cheese Dip
- Zucchini Fritters
- Cucumber Lime Green Smoothie
- Strawberry Fruit Leather (With Beets)
- Cauliflower Hummus
- Cauliflower Pizza Bites
Finding creative ways to hide veggies in favorite meals is an easy way to add more vegetables to the diet and can be helpful in getting kids used to the taste and texture of some vegetables.
Make Them Fun
When food is presented in a fun way, my kids are always more willing to try it (and usually like it!). Finding new ways to serves foods or preparing them to look more attractive are some ways to make veggies more appealing. Here are some of the ways I do this:
- Kale Chips
- Roasted Sweet Potato Bites
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Shrimp and Cucumber Appetizer
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Parsnip Fries
- Meatloaf Cupcakes
Sometimes making food more appealing is as simple as arranging it in a beautiful way on a platter or putting everything on skewers (and a dip to accompany it is always welcome!). My kids love to try anything that is arranged on a party platter, especially when it’s colorful and pretty.
Sneaky Vegetables and Fruits
Sneaking more vegetables and fruits into the diet is not as hard as it seems. The key is to find some recipes and ways of presenting them that entice kids to try them. It’s also helpful when the adults in the family are open-minded and always willing to try something new. Before you know it, vegetables will be a normal part of mealtime and kids will eat them (mostly) without complaining.
What are your best tips for sneaking in extra veggies?