4 Tips to Boost Kids Veggie Intake

Vegetables are arguably the most important food group, the key to any healthy diet. They are one of the most nutrient dense food groups and serve the foundation to healthy meals and snacks. A frequent comment from people enjoying the Cureality way of eating is, “I am eating more vegetables than I ever have in my life!”

This is great because plentiful consumption is associated with decreased heart disease, reduced weight, lower blood pressure, glowing skin and decreased risk of some cancers. However, perhaps you’re reading this and feeling great that you eat your veggies but struggle to get your kids to do the same. If you are a parent, who is simply trying to provide nutritious options to your kids, give these tips a try.

1. Add cheese or butter to enhance flavor and increase the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Younger kids like to dip foods, so often pairing with a dip, such as hummus, can increase intake.

2. Try the “rule of 15” — putting a food on the table at least 15 times to see if a child will accept it. Don’t give up after a few attempts. This can indeed be frustrating, but have patience and continue to offer a small portion to expose children to veggies without forcing intake. Often parents feel like it’s their job to just make their children eat something. I suspect most children will always select apple pie over an apple. It is important to set the stage, at an early age, with what is offered. In addition, being a good food model is important. You can’t expect your child to try broccoli, if you make negative comments about its taste, texture or smell.

3. Once a food is accepted, parents should use “food bridges,” finding similarly colored or flavored foods to expand the variety of foods a child will eat. If a child likes pumpkin pie, for instance, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots. If a child loves corn, try mixing in a few peas or carrots. Even if a child picks them out, the exposure to the new food is what counts.

4. Allow children to engage, as able. When grocery shopping or offering a snack, ask your child which option they would like to eat (e.g. ask which healthy foods they would prefer, blueberries or strawberries, cucumbers or carrots, etc.). When children are included in more food decisions it can decrease resistance. Include children in age appropriate preparation, as well, for example cutting produce, making a vegetable soup, or selecting produce at the grocery store.

Lisa Grudzielanek, MS, RDN, CD, CDE
Cureality Nutrition Coach