Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the biggest concerns that parents have regarding their children’s diet. It’s recommended that kids get at least 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables in their diet every day. But, most kids aren’t getting that amount. Below are 5 tips that can help children get their 5 a day!
- Cut it! Kids love when food is cut into pieces that they can pick up. An apple or orange might sit on the counter in the fruit bowl. But, cut it up and all of a sudden it is much more appealing. Even the fast food restaurants have figured this out and instead of just handing a child an apple or orange with their kid’s meal, they get apple or mandarin slices!
- Dip it! Some vegetables can be bitter to a child’s immature taste buds. Offering a yogurt or ranch dip can add the flavor they like and helps mellow out the taste of the vegetable.
- Hide it! What they don’t know won’t hurt them! By disguising fruits and vegetables, kids will get the nutrients they need. Plus, without knowing it, kids will learn to develop the taste for the vegetables or fruits and their taste buds will be more accepting of the fruit or vegetable in the future. Smoothies are a perfect way to blend in a few servings of fruits and/or vegetables. You can also puree vegetables like carrots or spinach and add that to a pasta sauce! For more ideas, check out Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious”.
- Grow it! Gardens are a great way to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies! I took my sons (7 and 9) to their grandmother’s house and they ate just-picked sugar snap peas. I was shocked! First of all, they tried it without whining and second, they liked it and asked for more! Since the fruits and vegetables can be picked when they are ripe, they often taste better than the store bought version. Kids love to see the food grow and helping them be a part of the process encourages healthy eating!
- Make it fun! Put cream cheese on celery and add raisins on top and you have Ants on a Log. Use cookie cutters to cut watermelon or cucumbers into fun shapes. The more appealing it looks, the more kids want to try it. For some fun ideas, check out http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/cooking-with-kids/.
Be creative and persistent and try to offer at least 1 or 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal!
Pat Cantrell, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician, President, KFIT Health, LLC