As any parent will agree, nourishing kids with fruits and vegetables on a daily basis can be a challenge. For me, I have found that being dietitian does not eliminate the struggle with my girls. I often wonder what other dietitian households look like, so I asked for tips from my colleague Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, LD – internationally renowned nutrition expert and author of Sweat. Eat. Repeat. The 90 Day Playbook (VeloPress; 1st edition, December 17, 2019) and most important to this blog, mother of three tots. Here’s what she said. Verbatim.
A Dietitian-Mom’s Guide to Fruits & Veggies
“Confession: My children don’t begin each day clamoring for vegetables, nor do they go to sleep with visions of sugar beets dancing in their heads. At first, their lackluster love of vegetables brought heartbreak and a sense of failure to this nutrition expert, but over time I came to accept three truths. First, having a wealth of nutrition knowledge does not equip you with the superpower needed to prompt healthier eating. Second, lighting a fire for love of vegetables, or any new food for that matter, is often a slow burn. Third, the fact that my children don’t have much passion for dark leafy greens is not that uncommon.
Over the years I’ve learned that inspiring healthy eating can be a heavy lift, but it’s not impossible and the effort is totally worth it. Here are some hard earned, dietitian-approved ways to get your kids asking for “more vegetables please”!
Make It Fun
Did you know that Brussel sprouts make you faster? Or carrots help you see in the dark? Or watermelon just might turn you into a camel since it helps you store water? Maybe I’m pushing the limits of imagination but when you make food fun, kids open up to trying it. So get creative with produce. Find out who can crunch the loudest with carrots or Crystal Head Lettuce. See who runs fastest after a meal with sprouts. Maybe blueberries make you bounce higher on the trampoline. See where I’m going here? With creativity, produce is not only powerful, it’s fun too.
Be a Good Role Model
Rare is the child who fills their plate with produce while the adult in their house dines on all things deep fried. Instead, children tend to model their plates after peers, siblings, and parents. No pressure, right? Before lamenting that your little love won’t dine on fruits and vegetables, check your own plate. If you yourself don’t embrace produce…. you see where I’m going here. Children learn what they live. So, make sure their life has fruit and vegetables present.
Whether your house is a member of the clean plate club OR leans more towards “no thank you bites”, remember that all kid-friendly portions are small. We’re talking size-of-fist for the entire meal if you need a visual. While many of us adults simply can’t get enough produce, to a child a mountain of greens can be overwhelming. Start with a sprinkling and grow from there.
Let them Participate
Brace yourself. I’m about to recommend you take your children grocery shopping with you. In all seriousness, encourage your child to pick out the most colorful or most unusual or most beautiful produce they can find. Find a recipe which incorporates the new food. There’s a good chance it’s an adventure for both of you. Maybe no one in your house is familiar with that dragon fruit or eggplant or arugula but there’s a good chance your about to find a new favorite (looking at you, arugula!).”
Looking for your new favorite recipe to incorporate your find? Check out some of our favorites here. And remember, you got this.