Being a Squirrel, Chipper loves eating his fresh greens! That’s why he always says, “Green before sweet, can’t be beat!” Getting your kids to love them too can be challenging in our sugar-saturated culture. Half of what we eat should be from the ground or a tree–especially for growing kids who are still developing–yet many kids eat hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets for dinner rather than broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and squash. According to a 2009 statistical research study by Ohio State University, only 22% of children ages 2 to 5 meet government recommendations for vegetable consumption. And it only gets worse as kids age: only 16% of children ages 6 to 11 meet the guidelines and only 11% of those ages 12 to 18. In the study, more than 6,000 kids and teens ate fried potatoes as a third of their vegetable intake. Once our body tries those salty saturated fats, it craves more of them and getting your kids to eat healthier can seem impossible.
Here are 10 great tips to get them to EAT THEIR GREENS from parents like yourself:
1. Get them while they’re hungry! If they are hungry, they’ll eat. Before dinner, serve an appetizer of colorful vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, and red bell peppers, along with hummus or low-fat salad dressing.
2. Institute the “no thank you bite” rule. Tell your child to take a bite before vetoing something on his or her plate. Even if they don’t like it at first, at least they’ll eventually get comfortable with it.
3. Make up cute names! Marketers do this, so why shouldn’t you? One mom starting calling Brussels sprouts “hero buttons” and her kids couldn’t get enough of them.
4. Shop with your kids. Letting your kids help you pick out the fruits and vegetables makes them feel like it’s their food choice. This also allows them to really appreciate all the smells and admire all the colors of the many different kinds of produce, thus making them more appealing!
5. Cook with your kids. When you have your son or daughter help make the green beans by adding a bit of butter and some seasoning, they will be more likely to insist on eating them since they “made them.” Then, as long as they can help to prepare their veggies, they’ll eat them!
6. Have a “veggie night.” This way, there is no competition from other food nights. Having a “Meatless Monday” is a great way to avoid eating meats too much (a common American vice) while providing a great opportunity to serve up those Mushroom burgers with Swiss cheese–Yum!
7. Hide the veggies. In author Jessica Seinfeld’s book “Deceptively Delicious,” she tells parents how to stealthily sneak pureed vegetables into everything from shrimp dumplings to quesadillas.
8. Make fruits and vegetables the easy option. Take a tip from the geniuses who thought to put potato chips in single-serving bags. Stock a kid-accessible shelf in your fridge with little bags of cut vegetables, applesauce and fruit cups.
9. Let them use fun gadgets! What kid doesn’t love gadgets? Let them use the blender, juicer, and food processors to make smoothies and other recipes with fruits and vegetables. Use proper supervision, of course.
10. Bribe them with dessert. This is the classic strategy–kids didn’t finish what was good for them? No problem–no dessert. Maybe it’s not the healthiest way to get them to eat vegetables, but it works.
Eating right is important – it affects our body’s chemistry so we feel good to! With all the sugary preservatives everywhere and in schools, it can be hard to get your kids eating and craving the right foods. Please let us know about any of your strategies for getting the kids to eat healthy in the comments below!