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7 Creative Ways to Get Your Kids Eating Fruits and Veggies and Why It’s Important
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, since the 1970s obesity has doubled in children aged 2 to 5, quadrupled in children ages 6 to 11, and tripled in children ages 12 to 19. It’s now the second leading cause of death in the United States. But children weren’t always obese, so why the change?
Experts suggest childhood obesity is directly linked to the quantity of food we eat, the type of food we eat, and the increase of sedentary lifestyles. More concerning is, children who are obese have a much higher likelihood of being overweight adults, and this comes with some pretty serious health outcomes like, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and even cancer.
The Center for Disease Control & Prevention suggests following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to get your family eating healthy. This means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. But if you’re like most parents, you struggle with a way to get your child to love the fruits and veggies part.
Vitality Farms Company lists seven creative ways to get them interested.
1. Head To A Farmer’s Market. Children can learn a lot about where their food comes from by visiting a farmer’s market. Take an opportunity to stop by and help them do things, like identify fruits and vegetables, talk to local growers about their work, learn about seasonal growing, and discuss what items found there go into meal preparation. Learning a potato makes a french fry, and that sweet potatoes can be more healthy french fries, for example.
2. Make Them More Tasty. Instead of a celery stick offer peanut butter filled sticks. Serve carrots with hummus or ranch dip. And when preparing veggies don’t be afraid to use butter or bacon grease to enhance the flavor.
3. Visit Choose My Plate. Children love using technology, like cell phones, pads, and computers. So instead of unleashing them to spend time on the latest video game, instead show them how they can be learning using these devices. Introduce them to a site like Choose My Plate, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. This wonderful website has games, activity sheets, and songs and videos that emphasize healthy eating.
4. Create Colorful Patterns. Similar to color geometric manipulatives used for preschool learning, you can use various fruits and veggies for forming patterns too. By preparing multiple vegetables separately, children can make shapes, like flowers, smiley faces, and it’s even a great way to introduce the alphabet. It’s also a good opportunity to talk about the value of having multiple colors on the plate.
5. Be A Good Role Model. Children learn by example, so take them to the grocery store and introduce them to the outer perimeter rule. Show them the produce section and all the great food choices there, then go onto the meat and dairy sections; this is where you’ll find your most nutrient dense options. And remember, if you’re hitting the inner aisles for processed foods, like cookies, crackers, and chips they’re going to learn to focus on less healthy options too.
6. Make Smoothies. Sometimes food textures can be a turn off for kids, or maybe they just aren’t fond of a certain fruit or vegetable. Instead of serving it the conventional way, find some good smoothie recipes.
7. Don’t Give Up. Many times parents offer a fruit or vegetable to a child only a few times before they give up and let them off the hook. Chances are you’re letting them off the line too easily. Instead, research suggests if you stick it out eight times, 63% of them will continue eating the once-disliked vegetable. Just remember to be cognizant of your tone and body language when talking with your kids about their food choices, as positive communication and feedback is important.
As you focus on creative ways to get your children eating fruits and veggies, be sure to teach them more than just the consequences of being overweight. Help them understand that nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have many health benefits, like carrots improving eyesight and immune systems and watermelons being packed with antioxidants. And remember, lead the way by choosing wisely yourself.