Did you know that half of what your child eats is supposed to be fruits and vegetables? Not hot dogs, not hamburgers, not chicken nuggets, but asparagus, apples, bananas, broccoli, squash, Brussels sprouts, and other whole foods that come straight from the earth.
And if you child is like most kids, they probably prefer eating food in one color — and it’s not orange or green. So how do you get your kids to eat more fruit and vegetables? Here’s 12 tricks we use with our Reboot families:
1. Start them young. Babies aren’t biased about what foods they will or will not like. Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables while a baby is in utero can familiarize the little one to the flavor. Whether this effect transfers significantly to all babies, those greens are certainly good for both mother and baby!
2. Toss raisins, nuts, apples and other foods your children enjoy into your salads and sauteed greens.
3. Puree or finely chop greens to cook with sauces and soups.
4. Add produce to smoothies. A frozen banana delivers sweetness and a handful of blueberries can hide the bright green color if your kids are skeptical. And of course, go ahead and add a handful of spinach!
5. Plant a vegetable garden. Allow your children to choose which vegetables to grow, and encourage them to plant, water, weed and harvest the produce. They will be much more interested in eating food they have grown themselves.
6. Appoint your child in charge of dinner. Once a week, your child can be head chef! The meal should be healthy and include at least one vegetable but why not go for two? The child can be empowered to go from there.
7. Educate your children. If they understand that veggies like greens give them added nutrients and will help them learn and do better in school, and play better on the soccer field, they might start to ask for broccoli at dinner.
8. Make up cute names. Marketers do this, so why shouldn’t you? Carrots can be “Orange Fries” and broccoli can be “Dinosaur Trees”. You’ll be surprised how much more appealing that sounds to kids!
9. Lead by example. If you don’t eat spinach, neither will the kids! Load up on the healthy foods in front of them and let them know how much you enjoy what you’re eating and why.
10. Give every fruit and veggie a fun description. Talk to them about shapes, colors, flavors of different vegetables and how and where they grow.
11. Kids are great shopping buddies. Bring them to the farmer’s market and let them choose a vegetable or two that they would like to try.
12. No child is too young to be a sous chef! Invite your kids into the kitchen to help prepare the vegetables they picked out. Have fun cooking veggies by treating it like a science experiment: try roasting, mashing and steaming for different textures and discuss how changing the cooking method changes the flavor and texture of each veggie.