My dear friend (and my first college roommate!), Courtney, recently started Pebbles Paleo, a blog where she shares delicious Paleo-friendly recipes (be sure to check out her recipe for Primal Bacon Toffee – YUM!) and bits of her Paleo lifestyle. The other day she posted How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, and I thought her list was so brilliantly on-the-mark that I wanted to share my own spin on it.
10 Easy Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables
1. Lead By Example
It’s no secret that children tend to mimic the behavior of adults, so it’s up to parents to set a good example and model healthy eating for their children. Be sure to fill your own plate full of your favorite fruits and vegetables, and consistently show your enthusiasm for fresh produce.
A weekly trip to the farmers market is not only a fun family outing, it is also an opportunity for children to discover new fruits and vegetables that they may not have seen before. My boys were introduced to purple bell peppers, rainbow carrots, rainbow chard and colorful cauliflower at our local farmers market, and they were surprised to learn that there are so many different varieties of produce that they had never seen in the supermarkets.
3. Subscribe to a Local CSA
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes are a great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. Every week we have a box of farm fresh organic produce delivered straight to our doorstep, and the kids can’t wait to dig into it. The children love having juicy strawberries and fruit for breakfast on delivery day, and they constantly proclaim that produce from the farm really does taste the better than any other kind! They’ve been adventurous enough to try broccoli, butternut squash, kale and romanesco…as long as it comes from the farm box!
We get our CSA box from Farm Fresh to You, and they have many different types of boxes that can be delivered weekly, every other week or every 3 or 4 weeks (click here to see if FFTY delivers to your area). They even deliver farm fresh eggs, nuts, honey, jam, flowers and more! Farm Fresh to You has kindly offered up a $10 discount on your first CSA box if you use promo code HEID6141 at sign up.
4. Grow a Garden
It’s absolutely true that kids are far more likely to eat their veggies if they’re homegrown. We have a large garden, and my children help with everything from planting seeds and seedlings to watering, weeding, and harvesting. All of that hard work and patience makes the children eager to taste the fruits (and veggies – ha!) of their labor. Each year I introduce new vegetables into our garden, and I prepare them alongside old favorites to entice my children to take a taste. My boys still aren’t huge fans of most green vegetables, but they are always willing to give it a try if it was grown in our own garden. By growing our own food we learned that my oldest son likes lettuce and cucumbers, and my youngest son discovered that carrots are actually one of his favorite foods! Growing food with your own hands makes you feel much more connected with it (and there’s nothing more delicious than a juicy strawberry that’s freshly picked right out of the garden!).
5. Allow the Kids to Cook
My children love to cook, and I previously shared some of my favorite tips and tricks for how to involve kids in cooking. Children seem naturally drawn to cooking, and they are quite capable if given the opportunity (and a bit of adult guidance, of course!)! Including vegetables into a meal prepared by the children is a fantastic way to encourage them to eat their veggies. Just like gardening, putting time and effort into the preparation of the meal helps kids to connect with what is being served on their plate.
6. Be Persistent
Kids don’t always take to new foods and flavors right away, and recent studies show that it may take up to twenty times before a child can truly distinguish whether or not he likes a food. Consistently offer your child a small portion of vegetables on their plate, and as they become accustomed to seeing them, they may be more inclined to take that first taste. It may seem like it’s not doing any good, but stick with it! I served green beans on my son’s plate for years, and he wouldn’t touch them. Last week he suddenly decided that they’re delicious, and he even asked for more!
You may also want to check out my “I Tried Something New” printable healthy eating chart and coloring pages, too!
7. Take them to the Farm
We love to visit our local farms (especially at strawberry picking time!). The kids enjoy discovering all of the hard work that goes into producing crops, and we have fun harvesting our own fruit and vegetables. It’s a great way to connect kids with nature and to show them where their food really comes from. We’ve had the opportunity to meet some of our local farmers and tour their facilities to learn how all of the components of a hamburger (including the bun and lots of fresh toppings!) come from the farm. The kids were able to grind their own wheat for bread, and they were anxious to top their hamburgers with lettuce and tomatoes that they had picked from the rows.
8. Make it Fun
Kids really do love cute food, and they’re much more likely to eat the vegetables from the plate above than they would be if it were just placed in neat piles on the plate. For TONS of creative food ideas, check out Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons and spend a few minutes browsing on Pinterest.
9. Sneak it in
When all else fails, sneak it in! There are countless books including The Sneaky Chef and websites such as Weelicious that encourage parents to cook with vegetable purees. The premise is simple, and generally quite effective – puree or mince mild tasting vegetables (think carrots, spinach, and cauliflower) to be mixed into traditional sauces, casseroles, baked goods and more. Kids may not be aware that their tastebuds are experiencing new flavors this way, but over time it may help adapt their palette so that they are less adverse to eating whole versions of the sneaky vegetables. I like to sneak extra helpings of vegetables into our smoothies, and I add pureed or finely chopped spinach to practically everything we eat!
10. Be positive!
A few kind words go a long way! Sharing your love for fruits and vegetables will encourage your children to try new foods and make healthy choices. At dinner a few nights ago, my husband and I were raving about the crisp freshness of the broccoli from our CSA box, and two of our children immediately asked if they could try some of it, too! Your positive attitude will certainly effect your child in a positive manner, so keep it up!