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10 Ways to get Kids Eating More Fruits & Veggies

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10 Ways to Get Your Kids Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables sometimes takes creativity for some people. Yet the extra effort that parents put forth will be well worth it in the long run. Most people know that eating fruits and vegetables daily is necessary for good health. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 80 percent of children do not eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Personally, my kids love just about all fruit, as well as things like salad, carrots, celery, cucumbers, pickles, and a variety of other veggies. Here's some tips on how to get your child eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.

Include them. When it comes to doing the grocery shopping, try taking your kids into the produce department (or farmer's market) and show them all the different colors and varieties of fruits and vegetables. Let them pick out some things each week to include in family dinners. When it's time to prepare them, let them do age appropriate things to help. Kids tend to have more interest in eating what they help prepare.

Limit television. The American Psychological Association reports that advertisers spend about $12 billion per year marketing to young people and that each year the average child views around 40,000 televisions commercials. The vast majority of these commercials are for unhealthy foods like snacks, candy, and soda, which ultimately persuades many children into asking for those items. Until the majority of commercials are for healthy food and lifestyle choices, you may want to limit how much time they spend in front of the television.

Use disguises. There are great ways to sneak fruits and vegetables into meals if you have a child that just refuses to eat them outright. Add in extra vegetables to soups, casseroles, sandwiches, pasta dishes, stir-fry, and on pizza. Fruits are easily added to soy yogurt, muffins, pancakes, and cereal. The kids are also sure to love fruit smoothies.

Grow gardens. Letting children assist in growing a garden will get them interested in eating what they have grown. Getting this hands-on experience is also a great learning experience for them. Give them the opportunity to suggest some of things they would like to grow.

Set examples. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) reports that the best way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is to avoid pressuring them. Instead, just eat more of them yourself. When children are pressured to eat healthy foods they tend to not want them. Setting a good example, by eating fruits and vegetables daily, will likely lead to an increase in your child's consumption.

Teach them. Many children realize that parents want them to eat more fruits and veggies. However, many may not understand why. Take this opportunity to teach your child about the importance of eating a healthy diet and what a body needs to be healthy.

Portion control.Take a look at the portion sizes in the other foods they are eating. Try cutting back a little on the other foods so they won't get filled up before getting a chance to eat their fruits and vegetables.

Eat together. There are many benefits to a family eating together on a regular basis. One of them is that children get the opportunity to see what their parents are eating. They are more likely to eat a nutritious meal when the family has taken the time to come together to share a meal instead of eating on the run or in shifts.

Pantry patrol. Limit the amount of snacks that you have in the house. Children are more likely to reach for a cookie than a piece of fruit when they want a snack. If the empty calorie snacks aren't in the house they will likely opt for the healthy ones. Keep fruits and vegetables prepared and handy for snacking. Stocking the counter with a fruit bowl and a refrigerator with ready to eat veggies will encourage healthy eating.

Be persistent. The ADA reports that children's food preferences are learned through repeat exposure to foods. Usually a child will need to be exposed to a food for eight to 10 times before they will develop an increased preference for the food. Therefore, just routinely exposing children to a variety of healthy food is creating an opportunity to get them eating and liking them. 

Fruit and Vegetable Portion Sizes for Children

1 piece of fruit or melon wedge

¾ cup juice

½ cup canned fruit

¼ cup dried fruit

½ cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

Note: Serving sizes are for four to six year olds. Offer less to those younger and more to those older.

*source: USDA