Do you struggle to get your kids eating enough fruit & vegetables? Maybe you already know that fruit and vegetables are essential for good health, but your child just won’t play ball. Don’t despair, this article should give you some ideas!
First of all, don’t panic. It is very common for children to be fussy eaters – refusing to eat certain foods, or not getting adequate variety in their diet. You may also find that your child is reluctant to try new foods – there’s even a name for this: “food neophobia”. The good news is that children usually grow out of fussy eating and food neophobia – in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to encourage your child to eat more fruit & veg.
Sometimes children need to be presented with a new food several times before they will even try it. Children may hate a particular food one day, and love it the next – so keep introducing new foods. If your child expresses a dislike for carrots, just keep serving them. They may try them eventually!
It’s always a bad idea to pressurise your children to eat a particular food, no matter how frustrated you may feel. Forcing a child to stay at the table until they have finished a particular food is counter productive. Don’t force kids to eat – keep offering a wide variety of foods, and eventually they’ll eat a wider variety.
Choose Your Words
If your child is a picky eater, don’t make a big thing out of it, especially if they are within earshot! You don’t want your child thinking of themselves as “special” because of their eating habits -this might encourage the fussy habit.
Make Fruit & Veg Fun
Kids are far more likely to eat fruit & vegetables if they see it as a fun activity. Try the following ideas:
- Cut fruit into funny shapes with cookie cutters
- Play the rainbow game – how many different coloured fruits can your child eat in a day? Write down their score on the fridge, or use a chart like this one
- Dress up sandwiches with faces & shapes made from vegetables and fruit
Make Fruit & Veg Available
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in an accessible spot and tell the kids that they can dip into it whenever they like
- Keep bags of chopped up fruit in the fridge for healthy snacks
- Put a bowl of chopped raw veg on the table during dinner – kids often love raw carrot, cucumber & broccoli when it is presented this way
- Have veggies with every meal, fruit with every dessert
- Keep bags of peas, sweetcorn, raspberries and other fruits & veggies in the freezer so they are always to hand
- Add a box of dried raisins or chopped fruit in a bag into your child’s lunchbox as a surprise
Dump the Junk Food
If your kids are full up on sweets and cakes, they’re not going to be eating healthy fruit & veg. Remember that you are the boss – just stop buying sweets and crisps, and they’ll stop eating them.
If your child eats only one particular type fruit or veg, try combining the old favourite with something new. For example, if your child only eats apples, try chopping apples and pears together to gradually introduce the new taste of the pear.
Try adding fruit to your child’s breakfast cereal – you could try raspberries, strawberries, chopped apple or banana. Dried fruits like raisins can be added to cereal or porridge.
Check out this great recipe for red peppers & eggs from the Superhealthykids blog - a great way to encourage your kids to eat veggies at breakfast time!
Get Kids Involved
- Your kids will have fun helping to chop fruit into fruit salad, and they’ll be more likely to try the end result
- Sit down with your kids and create a smoothie recipe together – and then send us the recipe, we’ll put it on the site!
- Get the kids involved choosing which fruits & veggies are going into a meal – encourage kids to choose recipes containing fruits & veggies from magazines or cook books
A great way to get children eating more fruit and veg is to create home-made fruit smoothies. Even the most anti-fruit kid may enjoy a smoothie. See our article on smoothies for inspiration. If you can’t make your own, you can buy smoothies – they just won’t be as nice! Look for smoothies made with 100% fruit.
Grow Your Own
When children get involved in growing fruit and veg, they are much more likely to try them. If you have a small garden, you could try a blackcurrant bush or a dwarf apple tree. If you don’t have a garden, you could grow cress on the windowsill.
Set a Good Example
You are your child’s most important role model – don’t expect them to eat lots of fruit & veg if you don’t set a good example! Cut down on the junk food and eat more fruit & veg – it’ll benefit your health as well as the kids.
Try to get your family and friends in on the act – it will really help your efforts within the home.
The Big Freeze
Children love novelty, so try freezing fruit – it totally changes the texture, and “fruit popsicles” might just get them snacking on more fruit. Why not try:
- Frozen raspberries (nice and crunchy, and frozen raspberries are usually cheaper than the fresh variety)
- Frozen strawberries
- Frozen segments of orange/satsuma
You could freeze berries and add them to a glass of water as a novelty ice cube, or use them as a topping for low fat natural yoghurt as a healthy pudding.
Change the Texture
Some children like lumpy food, others prefer it smooth, and others prefer food to be crunchy – so experiment with different textures. The humble carrot can be served raw (crunchy!), lightly boiled, or mashed to a puree. Just see which method works for your family.
If your child likes smooth food, take leftover veggies (e.g. carrots, potatoes, parsnips), blend them in a food processor or smoothie maker, add some stock and you have instant vegetable soup.
Keep calm, persevere, and do your best to make fruit & veggies fun. Good luck!
Hopefully this article will help you ensure your kids eat more fruit & veg. Leave a comment below and let us know if this article was helpful!