March is National Nutrition Month, and it’s a great time to encourage healthy nutrition habits for your kids. If you have a picky eater, it may feel like an uphill battle trying to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are high in many nutrients including fiber, which most kids don’t get enough of. Getting picky eaters to eat nutritious foods can be tricky, but the following tips may be helpful in helping kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables.
Five tips to help your picky eater to eat more fruits and vegetables:
- Involve kids in the kitchen as much as possible. When kids help with cooking, grocery shopping, meal planning, or prepping, they are more likely to try a new food. Even toddlers can help with simple tasks like washing fruits or vegetables, putting them into the fruit bowl or crisper in the fridge, helping to choose at the grocery store (even as simple as pink or green apples?). While involving kids in the kitchen can require more patience, it is worth it when your picky eater begins to get excited about new foods!
- Use a vegetable tray. Veggie trays can be store-bought or homemade with a few different types of chopped vegetables. As simple as it sounds, this is one of the easiest ways to get kids to try a new veggie. Either right after school or right before dinner (when kids are usually the most hungry), place a veggie tray on the dining table. Having it available and served with a dip like Ranch dressing will increase the likelihood of trying (and enjoying!) vegetables. Bonus: Make a simple, homemade ranch dip with greek yogurt to involve kids even more.
- Offer a vegetable first course. As mentioned above, kids are usually likely to try whatever they are offered in the evening (so long as they haven’t recently had a snack). Offering the vegetable as a starter course can increase the chances of kids trying something new.
- Keep offering. It takes 15 or more tries to develop a taste for a new food. While it can be frustrating to have kids reject a food, repeated exposure and offering without forcing can help kids along to trying (and eventually liking) a new taste. Offering the same food in multiple ways can increase exposures in new ways. For example apples can be offered as a whole apple, apple slices with peanut butter, or applesauce.
Start with the texture or dip your child likes most and go from there. For example, if your picky eater loves peanut butter, offer celery with peanut butter. If she loves yogurt, offer a fruit kabob with yogurt dipping sauce. Allow kids to reject a food, but do offer it again at a later time.
- Utilize canned or frozen fruits and veggies to minimize food waste and save money. Offering and throwing away food picky eaters reject can be frustrating, and can feel like throwing money away (literally). By using frozen or canned foods, you can offer a small amount at a time, and use them in different ways – like frozen berries mixed with yogurt or offered with oatmeal or in a smoothie.
It’s very normal for kids to go through picky phases. The best thing you can do for your picky eater is to continue offering new foods and be a good role model by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables yourself. If you need support in improving your own health habits, you aren’t alone! Check out www.cassandrapadgett.com/ebook to download my free nutrition guide for moms.