10 Tricks to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2009 to 2010 that nearly seventeen percent of children in the United States were obese. According to the CDC, obesity dramatically increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other health problems. Helping kids form good dietary habits during early childhood can, along with an active lifestyle, make it easier for them to avoid obesity and the related health risks. However, most parents know that trying to convince a child to eat fruits and vegetables over the processed snacks that make up most kids’ diets is no mean feat. These ten tricks can help you get more healthy food into your child’s diet, assisting in the prevention of obesity.

  1. “No Dessert Until…” – This old standby has been the go-to tactic for generations of parents, rewarding children for eating a healthy dinner with a reasonably portioned dessert. If you’re concerned about sugar or empty calories, dessert can always be fresh fruit based or a low fat frozen yogurt. Giving kids a nutritious yummy incentive to eat their veggies may make the process a bit more palatable for them, though.
  2. Make Healthy Food Fun – Turning ordinary vegetables into fun shapes is an art that Japanese moms have mastered with their adorable, kid-approved bento boxes. Taking a cue from these cute-food aficionados can make vegetables irresistible to kids, and most shapes aren’t as complicate to create as you might think.
  3. Get Kids Involved in Meal Preparations – Kids love to help in the kitchen, and they’re more likely to enjoy healthy fare if they helped to make it themselves. Getting your brood involved with food prep is a great way to inspire them to eat healthily, though it can make for a bit more clean-up if they’re particularly enthusiastic.
  4. Institute a “One Bite” Rule – Oftentimes, kids decide that they don’t like vegetables on principle, or are suspicious of new foods in general. Rather than letting your little one rule the roost with demands of processed food, insist that they at least try their vegetables before dismissing them.
  5. Opt For Fresh Whenever Possible – There’s no denying that fresh vegetables have a more appealing taste and texture than their commercially canned brethren. A kid that won’t touch canned green beans may find that the fresh variety are actually quite yummy, so buying fresh whenever possible can help dinnertime go more smoothly.
  6. Dips and Dressings Can Save the Day – Kids love to dip their foods, so choosing a healthy dressing or dip to give veggies a flavor boost might be just the thing to help your little one find them more appealing.
  7. Practice What You Preach – It’s hard to convince a child to eat vegetables when they see you turn your nose up at them, so make an effort to eat your own portions without complaint. As with so many other things, the “do as I say, not as I do” approach isn’t usually very effective.
  8. Keep Choices Limited – When your child knows that there are a variety of sugary, processed foods in the cabinets, they’re not likely to be excited by broccoli. Keeping the stock of these tempting but unhealthy options minimal can reduce the chances of your little one rejecting her vegetables in hopes of getting tater tots.
  9. Build Your Own Salad Bar – The ability to pick and choose which vegetables go into their salads themselves gives kids a sense of independence, which makes them more willing to eat them than they would be if they felt that they had no choice in the matter. Assembling a small salad bar for the first course also lets kids hit the vegetables first thing, when they’re hungry and everything looks more appealing.
  10. Blend Them Into Smoothies – While hiding vegetables in “kid-friendly” fare doesn’t help them learn anything about healthy eating habits, it can be a great way to supplement their diet and boost their intake of nutrients and powerful antioxidants. Little ones love the sweet fruitiness of smoothies, which makes it easy to integrate veggies that are masked by that sweetness.

Though ensuring that your child gets all of the health benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is essential, it’s also important to help them cultivate good eating habits. Rather than sneaking vegetables into the foods they already love in hopes that they’ll acquire a taste for healthier foods as they get older, make a concerted effort to openly integrate fresh veggies into their meals from a young age.

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