If you are lucky enough to have a child that likes to eat fruit and vegetables, sit down and count your blessings, while I will quickly go green with envy. Most children start their dietary life of on fruit and veg, and then suddenly, like the onset of menopause, they develop an absolute aversion to the idea of having to place a single piece of fruit in their mouth. My daughter, Jemma, will not partake in anything at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table that resembles healthy food in any way. In her words :”I do not do healthy.”
My frustration has lead me to google tips to entice her to eat fruit and vegetables. Here is what I found, no guarantees that it will work, but I will give it a try:
- Be a role model. If you eat fruit and veg on a daily basis (without pulling nasty faces) your child will probably over time start to imitate your healthy habits.
- Explain the benefits of eating healthy food. If there is no reason to eat healthy food, why should they? It is important not to dwell on the long term benefits, but rather focus on how much the broccoli will help her swim extra fast at her swimming lesson this afternoon. I found this brilliant site which allows children to discover for themselves the benefit of good food whilst playing a computer game. Have a look at MyPyramid Blast Off Game (http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/kids_game.html).
- Give them a choice. Take your child to the shops and give her the chance to choose the vegetables she is willing to try out. Having a say in the matter is a good motivator to try something new.
- Small bites. If you haven’t tried something before, it feels safer to start off with a small bite. If your child has not tried grapes before – start with one grape and not a bunch of grapes.
- Availability. Make sure that the fruit and veg you want your child to eat, is always readily available. It does not help to hide it away in the fridge while the cookie jar is on the kitchen counter. It is important that they know that they can help themselves to it without having to ask permission.
- The problem with snacking. All children have the odd snack here and there, try to avoid unhealthy snacks when healthier options are available. Filling up on biscuits and crackers just before dinner will not promote vegetable consumption at the dinner table. If they really need a snack before dinner, sneak a small bite of the veg or salad going to the dinner table to them without anyone seeing…
- Freezing cold. Serving frozen fruit or even vegetables on a stick might convince her to give it a try – even just because of the novelty value of it.
- Portioning. Allow your child to dish up for herself at the dinner table. Being able to decide on their own portions will probably lead to dishing up a bigger variety of foods, with smaller less overwhelming helpings.
- Soups and dips. I am still to meet the child who does not like dipping a french fry into tomato sauce. Providing dips for vegetables and fruit might just entice them to give something new a try. Many children love soups and vegetables can easily be added without really changing the taste of old favorites.
- Become the farmer. When children plant their own fruit or vegetables, they develop a sense of ownership and achievement. Something so natural surely cannot be all bad?
- Perseverance. If you want to succeed – you need to toughen up and keep on serving the same fruits and vegetables, even when you experience a great sense of rejection. Fruit and vegetables are a acquired taste, so you have to give your little one some time.
- Deception. If all else fails, hide vegetables in their firm favorites like spaghetti bolognaise. What they do not know will not harm them…
I hope that the tips and dips might make the road ahead easier. Ultimately all teenage girls turn into vegetarians and then we will wonder why we went to all the trouble.