A reader recently asked on the Don’t Mess with Mama Facebook page for advice on how to sneak vegetables and fruit into kids food because her own child didn’t like to eat them. While our community had great advice on how to add vegetable purees to foods like spaghetti, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of responses recommended our reader to not sneak vegetables and fruit and find other ways to get kids to enjoy them.
That’s my recommendation too. Follow these tips and you won’t need to sneak fruit and vegetables in your kids’ food. They will simply enjoy eating their vegetables and learn why it’s good for them. I also recommend teaching kids how to read food labels too.
I feel like I should say that I’m lucky my kids eat their vegetables and fruit, but luck had nothing to do with it. My husband and I deliberately set out to encourage our kids to eat vegetables and fruit at an early age, and you know what? They do. They REALLY do actually.
Here’s how you can do it too.
10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Their Vegetables
1. Include kids in meal planning.
Rather than make meals ad hoc, include the kids in deciding what to cook for meals. Negotiate foods served at meals – e.g. serve a standby vegetable your kid likes for lunch and agree on a new vegetable to try for dinner.
2. Read cookbooks together.
This is a fun activity to encourage kids to be a part of the meal planning and find new ways to prepare their favorite foods.
Check out my cookbook, Gluten Free, Real Food Recipes Kids Love for 70+ kid-friendly recipes and nutrition tips to help kids make better food choices.
3. Cook with kids.
There is no better way to get kids to try new foods than cooking in the kitchen with them. Kids as young as 2 years old can help measure, stir and add ingredients. Older kids can help chop and cook foods – as well as do taste tests.
4. Grow your own food.
This is one of the easiest ways to get kids to try fruit and vegetables. Start with a seed or seedling and work with kids to plant their own garden. They’ll love seeing their plants grow and picking their first bounty. I can’t grow tomatoes fast enough because my kids pick them from the backyard as soon as they ripen. This is a great way to introduce kids to organic farming too.
5. Shop with kids at the grocery store.
Keep kids involved when buying foods for the household. Show them the types of food to buy – e.g. meat, seafood, produce, etc. – and discuss ways to cook with the ingredients. Make it a point to spend a lot of time in the produce department to point out different types of fruit and vegetables – as well as seasonality, buying bulk vs. packaged, how to read food labels, how to measure, comparing prices, etc. You can even make it fun by giving kids a grocery list and letting them find food in the store (maybe time it between siblings and give the winner a prize like deciding what’s for dinner that night).
6. Take kids to the farmers market regularly.
This is an excellent way for kids to learn what’s in season and get to know farmers by name. It also encourages a “shop local” mentality at an early age. Plus, most farmers markets offer produce to try – which allows kids to try before you buy. My kids absolutely love trying foods at the farmers markets.
7. Join a CSA.
Save money and get produce in season with a CSA (community supported agriculture). The great thing about a CSA is that you don’t always know what you’re going to get, which is kind of fun. So if you end up with parsnips, work with your kids to find new parsnip recipes that you can try. I love the idea of trying new recipes to encourage kids to try new things.
8. Offer fruit and vegetables often.
It’s so simple it seems crazy, but it works. Rather than give my kids a bag of chips to snack on, I always have a veggie or fruit tray sitting out on the table. They graze on it pretty much all day.
9. Be a role model.
You can’t expect your kid to eat fruit and vegetables if you turn your nose up at it. So be sure you model the characteristics you want your kids to follow. Try new vegetables and fruit. Try new, exotic foods. Use new recipes for old family favorites. Encourage a sense of adventure with food.
10. Encourage the herd mentality.
It never fails. I get a friend or other parent who tells me their kid never eats fruit and vegetables. One playdate at my house and that kid is eating sugarsnap peas and cherry tomatoes. Why? When other kids watch my kids eat their fruit and vegetables, they join in. It’s like a herd mentality. Other kids want to go with the flow and usually end up eating our veggie tray with no problem. So if you’re child doesn’t like to eat fruit and vegetables, have him/her hang out with other kids who do. Work ahead with the parent of a veggie-loving kid to stage a vegetable intervention.
What’s your best tip to encourage kids to eat their fruit and vegetables – without sneaking it into their foods?
Feature image credit: aboikis / 123RF Stock Photo
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