7 Ways to Get Your Kid to Love Fruits & Veggies

Sheri Reed

snap peasSome days my boys both love artichokes (dipped in mayo, of course). Other days, not so much. My oldest loves plums, but only if they're yellow inside, not if they're red. Kiwi makes him giggle and dance with glee. My youngest will try a bite of vegetables sometimes if we tell him, "There is NO WAY you can possibly eat that vegetable." Apples and carrots and snap peas off our neighbor's vine are always a yes. Both boys actually prefer their boxed mac and cheese with frozen peas mixed in, and they get very angry when my husband cuts the corn off the cob.

My kids' relationships with fruits and vegetables ebb and flow and often defy logic, but always evoke big emotional responses -- good and bad. And maybe for us parents, that can be enough.

Of course, I want my kids to get their daily five of fruits and vegetables, but after seven years of parenting, I've decided to end my battle about it and here's how.

I've learned I could spend my whole life (and probably your whole life, too) trying to convince my youngest son to eat something he doesn't want to eat. So instead of battling I've decided to let my boys' relationship to fruits and to vegetables naturally progress or digress, as the case may be.

That said, though, I don't plan to change their exposure to fruits and vegetables. According to food writer Stephanie Gallagher, it's the exposure to fruits and vegetables that counts. "Kids have to be exposed to vegetables 10, 20, even 50 times, before they develop a taste for them," says Gallagher.

And here's the really good news -- exposure can be a simple as seeing the vegetable on the table or on their dinner plate. Exposure can be trying the food and spitting it out, preparing it without eating it, or actually eating it. Exposure can also be watching a food grow from a seed into a plant or cooking it with a parent.

With the goal of exposure in mind instead the goal of consumption, you take the battle out of the quest. Because we all know as long as we are fighting, our kids will be fighting back.

7 Ways to Get Your Kid to Love Fruits and Veggies Without a Fight:

  1. Fruit for breakfast. Place a piece of fruit or bowl of fruit salad (cut-up fruit is irresistible to my two) next to their breakfast plates and gently encourage them (don't insist) to eat it.
  2. Fruits and vegetables for lunch. Pack an easy-to-eat fruit or vegetable, like apples, grapes or carrots, in their lunches every day. My oldest packs his own lunch so he picks out the fruit or veggie he wants, which makes him more likely to eat it. Try not to be forceful about their eating the fruit or veggie or your good produce may end up in the lunchroom garbage can. Instead, encourage them to return uneaten foods home. At least you'll know what's being consumed or not.
  3. Drink fruits and vegetables. Make smoothies at home and let your kids experiment with different fruit and vegetable combinations that please them. Try using different whole fruits or vegetables, fruit juices, yogurts, and a mix of cow, soy or almond milks. My kids love a strawberry-banana smoothie even with a little spinach or kale tossed in. Our extra-special favorite includes some almond butter, banana, and dried dates!
  4. Easy snacks. Keep carrots and celery cut up in your fridge for an easy-to-grab snack.
  5. Take them to the source. My boys love to help their Grandpa pick tomatoes from the vine, and every time, they will taste one of the ones they pick. While neither of them are sold on tomatoes yet, they keep trying.
  6. Play the produce name game. Go to the supermarket or, even better, the farmer's market and challenge your kids to name all the fruits and vegetables they see.
  7. Bring the farm home. Subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. My kids love to see what "the farmer" sends us each week.

Do you battle with your kids to eat fruits and vegetables? What works or doesn't work?

Image via liza31337/Flickr

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