The current recommendation for children and adults is to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Yup, you read it right, 5-9 servings, every day, in order to provide your family with all the health benefits from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and other components that plant foods contain. Eating 5-9 servings every day will give your family maximum protection against disease. So how on earth do you get your kids to eat their vegetables, and to even to like them? Here are 5 tips that have worked in my home, as well as a fun project to do with your kids- make a rainbow platter! I’ll start with the rainbow platter.
Start simply and tell your children that it’s important to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day to stay happy and healthy. Then provide all the colors of the rainbow in fruit and vegetable form, such as apples and strawberries for the red, carrots and oranges for the orange, bananas and corn for yellow, avocado, celery, and lettuce for green, blueberries for the blue, and beets, grapes, and purple cabbage for the purple. Chop up all the ingredients you choose to use for the colors, and let them get creative assembling their rainbow. Eat as you chop.
We also used sprouted almonds to make clouds for our rainbow. I think it was a hit! (I admit the adults helped eat it too…)
Wondering how you’ll get organic fruits and veggies without spending a fortune? First off- you only need a small amount of each item, such as one carrot, one apple, one celery stick etc, so whatever you buy should last all week long. When possible you can save money on organic produce by buying in season, as well as buying in bulk (think bags of apples instead of loose). I hope this rainbow project will improve your children’s motivation and enjoyment of fruits and veggies as much as it does mine!
Now, heres 5 extra tips for encouraging young children to like fruits and veggies that I have used with success in my home:
1.) Start early developing your baby’s palette by offering your baby only pure, fresh, fruits and vegetables. There really is no need to feed babies out of a jar when fresh food can be prepared very simply and easily. Early foods to try at 6 months onward are: mashed banana, baked sweet potato and winter squash, grated or steamed apples and pears, avocado, and halved blueberries.
2.) Limit sugar consumption, and remove all hydrogenated oils from your family’s diet. This means reading labels and making things fresh at home.
3.) Keep trying! If your child doesn’t like certain fruits or vegetables, simply continue to make them available during meals. It can take a very long time for a child to accept a new food, so don’t give up! Just keep offering healthy foods, and they will learn to recognize the flavors and slowly start to enjoy them (or at least tolerate them). Sometimes I tell my kids they have to try one bite of everything I make, just to taste it. And that they don’t have to love every single thing they eat. Over time my kids have acquired a taste for many vegetables that they didn’t initially love at first sight.
4.) Model the behavior you want to see. When your child sees you truly enjoying your fruits and vegetables at meals, they will probably follow suit. Eventually.
5.) Experiment! Your child might like plain peppers and sliced purple cabbage, but prefer their broccoli stir fried with tamari. Maybe they will eat raw carrot sticks when dipped in hummus, or prefer cooked carrot from a soup. Maybe they’ll eat their potatoes only when dipped in ketchup, or avocado only when sprinkled with salt. Maybe they’ll like celery if served with peanut butter. Try cooked versus raw, and different condiments and flavors to see what your child likes best. Go with whatever works!