As parents, it’s important to prevent kids from getting addicted to the ‘empty calorie’ foods such as snacks or processed foods. They have to grow well and healthy, and parents are responsible to guide children’s healthy choices. The problem is, most kids are picky eaters—and the worst is they show very little interests to fruits and vegetables.
So, what parents can do to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables?
Set an example
By far, the best predictor of a child’s eating behavior is the eating patterns of her parents. Be a good example for your kids by taking fruits and vegetables as the important diet in your family.
Let your child pick out the products
Take your kiddos to grocery stores, and ask them to pick the fruits and vegetables they’re going to eat. While shopping, you can also explain to them that these are healthy foods that are way safer than unhealthy snacks they often eat at home or school.
Make fun foods
Turn something that can be a little boring into something the kids are enticed to eat. You can fill their lunchbox with fun food or ‘hide’ the fruits and vegetables in their favorite foods. For example, you can arrange broccoli on a plate to imitate a tiny forest, and make them be the ‘dinosaur’ to eat them. Don’t forget to play with the taste of the food also.
Show off fruits and vegetables
Simply store pre-cut fruits and vegetables in clear container and put it on the snack shelf in the fridge. The colors of the fruits will attract them, and since there are no other choices of snack available, they’ll take the fruits as their snacks.
“One bite rule”
Research consistently shows that children who have initially rejected a food must be exposed to it at least 8-10 times for the food to be accepted. Basically it requires the child to try at least one solid mouthful of the rejected food whenever it is served. After enough exposures the food will be more familiar to the child and usually they begin to rate it more favorably.
Don’t force them
Don’t let your child to have bad meal experience just because you force them to finish their fruits or vegetables in one sit. Negative meal experience makes children learn to associate those foods with the bad feelings. The experience will actually increase picky eating tendencies, so it is better to prevent it.
Children have different nature and characteristic; one child may be easy to be encouraged but another one may be very stubborn. However, the habits that they develop at a young age will remain until their adulthood, so whatever they response to your attempt to make them eat more fruits and vegetables, keep doing it. Continue to set a good example, create positive meal experience, let them help preparing their meals in the kitchen, and enforce the one bite rule. Just make sure you do it all in a pleasant way. Your persistence will pay off, for both you and their good.