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Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Encourage Your Children to Eat More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Photo by RubyDW (Flickr)

I love having my girls home for summer vacation, but like most parents I know, I find it hard to keep up with their growing appetites and make the time to cook healthy meals. One thing I can do is ensure that they eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially during June, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. Because these foods build strong bodies, reduce obesity, and improve school performance, the American Heart Association recommends that kids eat one to two cups of fruit and three-quarters of a cup to three cups of vegetables each day, depending on their age. I plan to use several strategies to boost my girls' fruit and veggie intake in June and all summer.

Visit Local Farmers' Markets

Our community hosts a weekly farmers' market that's part of our shopping routine. I want my girls to know where their produce comes from, and I can use these trips to teach them how to pick produce that's ripe and delicious.

Grow a Garden

My girls always enthusiastically eat the produce they grow themselves. They feel proud of their accomplishments and want to enjoy their hard-earned harvest. Plus, fruits and vegetables taste better when they're eaten within minutes of being picked.

Cook Together

As often as possible, I ask my girls to help in the kitchen. They learn invaluable life skills as we have fun, plus they're more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they prepare.

Prepare Vegetarian Dishes

Last week, I made vegetarian lasagna, and my girls loved it! This success prompted me to add even more vegetarian dishes to our menu as we boost our veggie intake with flavorful food.

Serve Salads

Every weekend, I chop a variety of vegetables for our daily dinner salad and let my girls pick at least one other kid-friendly salad to make. My girls enjoy customizing their daily salad with whatever veggies they feel like eating, and we use healthy citrus juice to top them instead of high-fat dressings.

Season Bitter Vegetables

Despite their health benefits, broccoli, kale, and other bitter vegetables aren't appealing to kids. I toss a little butter, coconut oil, salt, or herbs on these foods to make them more appealing to my kids.

Offer Fruits and Veggies as Snacks

After a busy day of summer fun, my girls feel so hungry that they'll eat anything in sight. That's why I prep plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and place them on the counter or in plain sight in our fridge.

Phase Out High-Calorie and Sugary Snacks

I admit that my girls like eating cookies, candy, and chips, but I limit high-calorie and sugary foods to special occasions. I want my girls to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit and gain all of the health benefits of these real foods.

Make Dips

Dunking fruits and vegetables into yummy dips adds fun to snacks and meals. In addition to using low-fat ranch dressing, I mix spices or fresh fruit puree into Greek yogurt, serve hummus, and make other healthy dips for my girls.

Get Creative

While my girls will grab a whole apple or carrot sticks, they prefer fun fruit and veggie displays. We assemble kebabs, make smoothies, and build edible arrangements. These and other creative displays encourage my kids to have fun as they consume their recommended daily fruit and veggie servings.

Mix it Up

Everyone knows that eating the same foods every day is boring, so I offer my girls a variety of fruit and vegetable choices. In addition to serving fruits and veggies in different textures and forms, I freeze grapes, puree fruits and veggies for smoothies, and dehydrate blueberries and kale.

Give Kids Control

Usually, I let my girls pick the fruits and vegetables they eat, and they help plan our weekly menu. They feel empowered and are more likely to eat healthy foods when they have a say in what they eat.

Be a Role Model

We know that kids model what they see, so I add fruit to my morning cereal, pack veggies for my lunch, and fill my dinner plate at least half full with vegetables. My daily food choices encourage my girls to also embrace a balanced and healthy diet.

During National Fruit and Vegetables Month, I will use these tips to encourage my girls to eat more fruits and veggies. Not only will they consume a healthier diet, but I'll also reinforce healthy habits that last a lifetime. What other tips do you suggest for increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables our kids eat?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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