When you provide your child with healthy foods — including fruits and vegetables — you can help to create a nutrition-based foundation for them that can last a lifetime. The question, of course, is how do you get your child to eat more fruits and vegetables?

First, some statistics: In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that, although children were eating more fruit than in the past, they weren’t necessarily upping their vegetable intake. So although it’s important for children to eat both fruits and vegetables, this post will focus on the bigger challenge, especially for families with picky eaters: getting kids to eat enough veggies.

Before we begin, here’s information about the vegetable food group. Just looking at this page can help to remind you about the wide variety of options there are within this food group, including dark green veggies, red and orange ones, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and more. If there is a particular vegetable that your children really don’t like, there are plenty of other nutritious options.

Tips to Encourage Children to Eat Their Vegetables

HealthyChildren.org suggests you make it easy for everyone in your house to eat vegetables as snacks. You could, as just one example, wash and cut up carrots, celery sticks, and bell peppers in a rainbow of colors, and have them readily available in easily reached places in your refrigerator. Giving your children the ability to help themselves can automatically make them more appealing to kids.

You can make salads a regular part of meals at home, teaching your children the right amount of salad dressing to use. Instead of offering extra-fatty versions of dressing, consider making your own with olive oil and vinegar as described here. Go beyond lettuce in your salads, adding veggies in different colors and textures. That way, if your children eat a portion of salad each night, you know they’re eating veggies regularly.

You can also make vegetarian versions of favorite dishes, whether that’s lasagna, for example, or chili. Here are vegetarian recipes to consider for your family. Browse through them and you’ll likely find something for everyone, including picky eaters.

Take your children with you to the grocery store. Start in the produce section and let them choose their favorites. When the weather is nice, you can head to local farm markets where fresh vegetables are available. Your children can enjoy being out in the sunshine — something that’s quite appealing to kids — while also choosing some ingredients for dinner.

Let your children see you eating veggies and enjoying the experience — and avoid sayings like, “You can have dessert if you eat your vegetables.” Although that may be said with the best of intentions, it can make it sound as though, when children eat the healthy stuff, it’s just a yucky thing to do before getting a delicious dessert.

Plus, researchers have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when the other items on the plate aren’t super-delicious. For example, if your child loves chicken nuggets, that may get all of his or her attention, making vegetables even less appealing during that meal.

Serve Vegetables Through Stealth Health Strategies

Let’s face it: Your children, especially your picky eaters, aren’t going to jump for joy if you serve vegetables as the centerpiece of a meal. But there are stealthy health strategies you can use to add nutrient-rich foods into dishes without your children necessarily noticing.

NPR.org shares how a couple of moms came up with foods that taste delicious and are similar to what children already enjoy — but ones that are much more nutritious. A nacho dip, as just one example, contains pureed butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and white beans. Kids served this dip happily eat veggies.

CookingLight.com also offers strategies. For example, when making tomato sauce for your spaghetti, add other vegetables. This can include onion, green pepper, zucchini, and more. Or you can “rice” your vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, or sweet potato—or, if that’s too time-consuming, consider buying ready-made riced vegetables.

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