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Help your kids learn to love veggies

Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor • Aug 15, 2018 at 4:30 PM

August is Kids Eat Right Month! This is the perfect time to focus on incorporating more healthy foods into your child’s meal patterns, including fruits and vegetables.

ids aren’t the only ones struggling to get their produce in. Only 10 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

If you have some picky eaters at home, you’ve probably considered hiding veggies in their favorite foods. But is this the right approach? How do you raise veggie-lovers without serving up deceptively delicious meals? While every child is different, here are some tips to consider:

Smuggle veggies sometimes: Don’t worry about hiding vegetables all the time, but if you have an extremely picky eater who doesn’t like vegetables, disguising the taste or texture a little can be a helpful way to start introducing them. For example, try pureeing mushrooms and folding them into meatloaf or add shredded carrots or zucchini to spaghetti sauce.

Ditch the disguise: While smuggling vegetables into different foods may help your kids eat more, it shouldn’t be your only strategy. It’s important for kids to get used to the appearance of vegetables so they can get to know and accept them. Serve vegetables regularly to give your kids the opportunity to try them and explore different tastes and textures. Remember, all forms of fruits and vegetables count, including fresh, frozen, canned or dried. If your child doesn’t like cooked vegetables, offer raw veggies with a dip or in a crunchy salad. Serve vegetables in or alongside kid favorites like pizza, pasta or macaroni and cheese.

Repeat: Continue to serve vegetables even if you don’t have success. Be patient and remember that learning to like vegetables takes time. Exposure and repetition go a long way. Plus, taste buds can change! Don’t fight food preferences. Instead, offer a variety of vegetables regularly prepared in different ways. Allow kids to listen to their own hunger and satiety cues and eventually their preferences will develop into healthy habits that will continue into adulthood.

This month, and all year long, help your kids make food decisions to support their health!

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian

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