It is a common conversation between myself and young moms about how best to feed their young children. Often, they feel as though their efforts go unrewarded, and their children turn away from eating good fiber foods, such as, fruits and for sure, vegetables.
I try to explain that this may be a color problem, or a texture problem, but that they will generally grow out of this. But sometimes not. It has been long known that children’s taste buds will change twice in their early years, sometime around ages 5 and 15. That said, they will often change their minds about eating these foods, and will begin incorporating great tastes and flavor of all varieties as fruits and vegetables at an increasing rate in their middle school and high school days. That is the plan and expectation.
In the meantime, if this is a difficult task for right now, you may want to think about trying some new approaches, such as these mom approved tips getting kids to eat healthy:
- Have a general idea that mealtime, and snacks, are important eating occasions. Sit down at the table and enjoy the meal together. Avoid eating “on the run” or in the car.
- Teach your kids that as an important meal, that time needs to be taken to discuss what is going to be served, and how they might help in the kitchen.
- Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table for a quick and easy snack. Also, have a bowl for freshly cut vegetable sticks ready in the refrigerator. (Keep fresh with a little water in bowl and keep covered).
- Add raisins, banana, and apple to dry or cooked cereals for added “go” power.
- Top grilled meats with a homemade salsa made with cilantro, avocado, mango, lime juice and tomatoes. This is an incredibly nutritious side dish that kids will usually respond to.
- Add bananas and berries as a side to breakfast dishes, like pancakes, waffles, English muffins. The idea is that the vision of the fruit or vegetable is, “forever present.”
- Provide dried fruits instead of candy.
- Keep a bag of freezer or “steamer” vegetables on hand, to have as a lunch or dinner side dish, and to add to soups or stews.
- Freeze fruits in small baggies. Have ready to add to smoothies or eat as a frozen treat.
It is true that probably the toughest part of this dilemma is the serving and eating of fresh or cooked green vegetables. Most children do well with carrots, corn, and celery, but when it comes to a cooked vegetable dish that is “green,” it is more difficult.
- The answer may be in the process of “empowering” your child to choose the foods best for them from a variety of fruits and vegetables that looks appealing at the grocery store.
- Involve your child in preparing meals so that he or she can become “owners” of the meal selections. There is something to be said about cutting, preparing, and serving the food that just may add to the empowerment process.
- Have both a raw and cooked vegetable selection available for one vegetable at the same meal. The preparation method should not be the reason for deciding to eat a vegetable.
We have several opportunities throughout the week to suggest and encourage kids to try different foods. Of course, it is best to encourage them and try to work with any difficulties to come on board with a positive attitude of our own. It is not always going to be a successful venture. Next, we will look at other reason why some children have more difficulty with certain foods, and to explore ways of included needed fruits and vegetables in recipes. In addition, we will look at how best to deal with “the picky eater.” Surprisingly good answers come from our own club members.
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation