Every parent knows the key to keeping children healthy is to get them to put down the junk food and eat more vegetables, but this is often more easily said than done. So how can you promote vegetables in your home? Try these simple tips to get your kids to love veggies!
Smile. Studies have shown that if you smile while you eat vegetables, your children are more likely to want to eat them. Modeling healthy eating by not only eating vegetables around your kids, but also by clearly showing that you enjoy them, is incredibly important. Even if they’ve never liked that vegetable before, simply seeing you enjoy it will make them like it more. So be sure to set a good example by eating vegetables in front of your kids with a smile on your face2!
Buy more vegetables than junk food. If your kitchen is filled with vegetables instead of unhealthy junk food, your kids will be more likely to reach for the carrots instead of the chips3. Try extending this to your child’s school cafeteria by asking if the salad bar can be moved to a more prominent location and ask that the vending machines be moved to a less prominent location or even better removed completely.
Make vegetables kid-sized. Children like to eat food they can eat easily, so cut up vegetables and keep them easily accessible in the fridge4. Try cutting them up into small, fun shapes and serving them with low-fat salad dressing or dip too!
Be positive. Avoid forcing your kid to eat vegetables and punishing them when they don’t. Instead, use positive reinforcement by praising them when they do finish their vegetables or when they ask for their snack to be their favorite vegetable4.
Let them have a say. When kids can help decide what vegetable will be a part of dinner, they’ll feel more involved and will be more excited to eat them4. See what your child likes helping with the most, from grocery shopping to meal planning to preparing the vegetables themselves.
Eat together. Just eating together as a family can encourage your children to eat healthier. This has been shown to be one of the best ways to make sure your children are getting their recommended intake of vegetables1.
Make vegetables fun. Giving fun names to vegetables will make them seem more fun and attractive to younger kids. It’s also a great way to teach them about the benefits of vegetables by linking each food’s name with how they make you healthier, like “X-ray Carrots” or “Power Punch Broccoli5.”
Don’t be afraid of trial and error. There are some vegetables your kids might not like, and that’s okay! Expose your child to a vegetable at least 10 times. If your children still don’t like the taste of a certain vegetable, move forward by exploring new options and replacing the unwanted vegetable with one of their favorites4.
Tisa Hill and Julie Apuzzo, Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences
- Christian, M.; Evans, C.E.L.; Hancock, N.; Nykjaer, C. & Cade, J.E. 2012. Family meals can help children reach their 5 a day: cross-sectional survey of children’s dietary intake from London primary schools. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 10;1136.
- Droit-Volet, S. & Rousset, S. 2012. How emotions expressed by adults’ faces affect the desire to eat liked and disliked foods in children compared to adults. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 30;2(253-266).
- Hearn, M.D.; Baranowski, T.; Baranowski, J.; Doyle, C.; Smith, M.; Lin, L.S. & Resnicow, K. 1998. Environmental influences on dietary behavior among children: availability and accessibility of fruits and vegetables enables consumption. Journal of Health Education. 29;1(26-32).
- Choose My Plate. Tips to help you eat vegetables. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- Wansink, B.’ Just, D. R.’ Payne, C.R. & Klinger, M.Z. 2012. Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools. Preventive Medicine. 55;4(330-332).
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