There is no doubt that fruits and vegetables are very important, so we’ve heard! However, recent studies indicate that children who ate the most vegetables and fruits had significantly healthier arteries as adults than children who ate the fewest. So you see, what your children eat during their childhood reflects on their lifestyle, eating habits and overall health as adults. Therefore, here are 10 helpful and efficient tips formulated from the American Heart Association aiming to encourage your children to include more vegetables and fruits in their diet. This way, they will increase their intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water and fiber!
1. Make fruit and vegetable shopping fun and educative: Visit your grocery store with your children and show them how to select ripe fruits and fresh vegetables. This is also a good opportunity to explain which fruits and vegetables are available by season and how some come from countries with different climates. Make fruits and vegetables interesting: talk about where they come from, how they are planted, grown and cultivated.
2. Involve kids in meal preparation: Find a healthy dish your kids enjoy and invite them to help you prepare it. There are many things children can help you with; it all depends on their age: younger kids can help with measuring, crumbling, holding and handing some of the ingredients to you while older kids can help by setting the table and cut fruits and vegetables into chunks, of course, when supervised by you. Make sure to teach them the right way to help and definitely praise them for their great help. This way, they will feel proud that they assisted you and participated in preparation a family meal. It will encourage them to eat a meal they have themselves made!
3. Be a role model: Yes, you have a huge influence on your kids. Studies, whether recent or old, always assure the influence parents have on their children! If you are eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, while surely enjoying them, your child would want to have a taste of what their parents are enjoying! You can’t push them to eat healthy when you show them it’s not your favorite. You are their idol so use it for your and their benefit.
4. Create fun snacks: Schedule snack times for most kids like routines. Snacks are great when they are wisely chosen. Between meal snacks are a great opportunity to offer fruits and vegetables to your kids while enjoying them together. To start with, make fruits and vegetables visible for your children. How? Place a bowl in the middle of your kitchen table at all times! Fill it with different kinds of fruits and vegetables and always remind your kids that it’s sitting right there. Moreover, kids like to pick up foods with their hands, so give them finger foods they can handle depending on their age. You can also cut up a fruit and arrange it on an attractive plate, make a colorful rainbow in their plate, make a smoothie or freeze a smoothie in ice cube trays. Be creative! Create a smiley face from cut-up vegetables and serve with a small portion of low-fat salad dressing, hummus or plain low fat yogurt or labne.
5. Give kids choices - within limits: Too many choices can overwhelm a small child. However, giving your children the freedom to choose from a short list is a great idea. This way you will be encouraging them to start formulating their own decisions while pushing them to eat healthy foods. Don’t go asking them what they want for lunch but don’t force them with one kind of food. Instead, offer them limited healthy choices for snacks, such as dried fruits with nuts, banana, strawberry with cereal or carrot fingers?
6. Eat together as a family: If your schedules permit, family dining is a great time to help your kids develop healthy habits and attitudes about food and the social aspects of eating with others. Make sure you are eating your fruits and vegetables constantly and in front of your children. Even if they aren’t eating certain vegetables yet or they are rejecting others, they will model your behavior sooner or later. This is why tip 10 is crucial no matter what!
7. Expect pushback: As your kids are exposed to other families’ eating habits, they may start to reject some of your healthy offerings. Without making a disparaging remark about their friends’ diet, let your children know that fruits and vegetables come first in your family. A positive experience with food is important. Never force your child to eat something, or use food as a punishment or reward
8. Grow it: Start from the ground up — create a kitchen garden with your child and let them plant tomatoes and herbs, such as basil and oregano in window boxes. If you have space for a garden, help them cultivate their own plot and choose plants that grow quickly, such as beans, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and radishes. Provide child-size gardening tools appropriate to their age.
9. Covert operations: You may have tried everything in this list and more, yet your child’s lips remain zipped when offered a fruit or vegetable. Try sneaking grated or pureed carrots or zucchini into pasta or pizza sauces. Casseroles are also a good place to hide pureed vegetables. You can also add fruits and vegetables to foods they already enjoy, such as pancakes with blueberries, carrot muffins or fruit slices added to cereal. On occasions when you serve dessert, include diced fruit as an option.
10. Be patient: Changes in your child’s food preferences will happen slowly. They may prefer sweet fruits, such as strawberries, apples and bananas, before they attempt vegetables. Eventually, your child may start trying the new vegetable. Many kids need to see and taste a new food a dozen times before they know whether they truly like it. Try putting a small amount of the new food — one or two broccoli florets — on their plate every day for two weeks; but don’t draw attention to it.
Brought to you from the American Heart Association.