What if getting kids to eat more produce was as easy as switching up their schedules? A new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine studied 2,500 Orem elementary school children and found that those who had recess before lunch consumed 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who had it after.
Sometimes it’s a small change or tweak that can lead to big results. With that in mind, here are easy 10 tips for increasing your children’s fruit and vegetable consumption from Marie Anderson, Family and Consumer Science Educator at the Utah State University Extension in Utah County.
1. Keep them in sight, in mind
Kids will be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they can see them, says Anderson. “Always have a fruit bowl on the counter, near the fridge or wherever it will be most visible and inviting,” she says. In the fridge, keep fruits and vegetables where kids can reach them.
2. Plant a garden
Children are more willing to try new foods if they are involved in the process, says Anderson. Where possible, consider planting your own vegetable garden. This will help children learn about “farm-to-plate” consumption and understand where these important foods come from.
3. Offer two good things
Kids like to have options, but you can control the selections. Instead of asking children if they want, say, candy or fruit, let them choose between oranges and bananas, says Anderson.
4. Involve kids in selection and cooking
Bring your child to the grocery store or farmer’s market and let them pick different fruits and vegetables, suggests Anderson. Then let them help in the kitchen and try new recipes. Children love to eat what they have created.
5. Play with your food
Make servings of fruits or vegetables fun and creative by arranging them as animals, shapes, art, etc. Pins like these on Pinterest can provide inspiration that goes far beyond ants on a log.
6. Keep it positive
Avoid negative food experiences, which may encourage poor eating habits, says Anderson. Never force children to eat a certain food or berate him for his food choices. Instead, set a good example and understand that children may have to be offered a food a dozen times before they will eat it. Keep trying!
7. Have fruity desserts
Simple desserts such as frozen grapes or fruit pops, apple slices, or pineapple wedges (with a yogurt dip) are a good substitution for sugary baked goods.
8. Be a sneaky chef
Add more vegetables into recipes by grating, mincing or pureeing them. Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, even wrote a cook book about hiding vegetables in your food called “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.”
9. You must dip it
“Kids love to dip,” says Anderson, so keep things like hummus, dressing and yogurt on hand for that purpose. There’s some evidence that a little fat helps with the absorption of nutrients in vegetables, so pairing ranch dressing with those carrot sticks may be just the ticket, after all.
10. Juice away
Juicing is another great way to encourage children to include fruits and vegetables in their diet. Children will be more inclined to drink what they have chosen, says Anderson. And green smoothies — typically made from spinach, fruits and liquid — are a great way to make harder-to-eat vegetables more palatable. You can find recipes here at simplegreensmoothies.com.