Peas and Thank You

carrots.jpgToday, Jules shares 8 tips for encouraging kids to consume vegetables:

In a home where parents love to eat vegetables and other healthy foods, wouldn't it be awesome if the "monkey see, monkey do" theory meant that kids would grow up happily munching on carrot sticks and string peas? Alas, it never seems to be that easy. Here are 8 tried and true approaches I use to get my kids more interested in trying vegetables.

1. Repeat. And repeat with a twist. Many experts agree that a child needs to be offered a specific food a dozen or so times before acquiring a taste for it. So keep trying, and also try prepping vegetables using different methods and paired with different flavors and see what appeals.

2. Give kids control at the grocery store. I have my kids push their own small carts at the grocery store and tell them to choose one fruit and one vegetable to put in their carts. They love how grown up it makes them feel and often are excited to get home and eat what they've chosen.

3. Cook with your kids. I love to cook and I get my kids in on the prep whenever possible. If I'm roasting, I will have them help me season. If I am pureeing, I will let them push the buttons. Often they're curious to try what we have created together.

4. Offer when they're hungry. My kids are more likely to try things when they are hungry. If they're clamoring for food in advance of dinner, offer veggies and dip as an appetizer instead of less nutritious options.

5. Get saucy. You needn't soak veggies in cheese sauce; try other dips and sauces such as hummus and dressing. Though a bottled dressing isn't my first choice, my kids will always eat veggies when Ranch dressing is the dip of choice. I try to use it sparingly!

6. Make food look good. You don't need to invest a ton of time turning your kids' food into complicated shapes and characters. Sometimes simple geometric patterns or making faces out of food is enough to get kids interested. Christine also recently found that having Laurel prepare a muffin tin tray full of little nibbles (vegetables, fruit, and a few crunchies) increased vegetable consumption considerably. Laurel loved being able to prepare the items and then see which "holes" got emptied first.

7. Talk benefits. Tell your kids about the benefits of different foods.When we told my son that milk, carrots, and peppers would give him huge muscles like mommy, he started eating. And then flexing. After every. single. bite.

8. Impart some contingencies. In my house, you have to try at least one bite of each food being served before being able to play after dinner and you always have to try one bite before saying that you don't like it (ideally with a "no thank you" instead of "yuck that's gross!"). Also, you don't always need to hinge vegetable consumption to a dessert reward. Instead, try simple rewards like stickers or an extra bedtime story for trying veggies every night for a week.

Do you have other tips and tricks for encouraging your kids to eat vegetables? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!

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