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Seven Ways to Make Vegetables Fun for Kids

vegetables for kids, tips for picky eaters, children's nutrition

You’ve probably heard the mantra “Eat Five a Day” which encourages all to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The National Cancer Institute actually encourages more – nine servings per day to reduce the risk of many types of cancer. It is not usually too difficult to get kids to eat fruit, as they are sweeter. But vegetables – now that’s another story.

Vegetables have many benefits for children:
• Veggies can help aid digestion. The fiber found in vegetable helps to prevent constipation.
• Veggies are “fill-up” foods. Because they are filling, kids will be less likely to be hungry soon after a meal and craving junk foods in between meals.
• Veggies are full of essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients for growth and good health.

But just being good for you is probably not enough motivation to get kids to try new vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or kale. Here are some tips from Parenting Magazine on making vegetables fun to eat:

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• Cut cucumbers into ribbons and use them on sandwiches, salads, or as an edible garnish
• Create fun “pictures” on a plate using fruits and vegetables. If you are creative enough, try recreating a picture (using fruits and vegetables) of a favorite character or scene. Pinterest is an excellent source for pictures of fun, kid-friendly plate ideas.
• Try adding more interesting spices and flavors to vegetables, such as combining mint with peas for a refreshing taste.
• Make “Carrot Fries” instead of French Fries made of potatoes. Slice one pound of carrots into sticks using a crinkle cutter. Toss with olive oil, dried thyme and salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes on a parchment paper-lined pan.
• Make Veggie Chips instead of potato chips using Kale, Carrot, or Sweet Potatoes
• It’s okay to use a dip to tempt your kids into trying a new food. Ketchup, ranch dressing, queso, salsa – be creative! It’s okay if it gets kids to eat some veggies.
• Add kale or spinach to fruit smoothies. The taste of the leafy green will not even be detectable, but of course the color will. Call it a “Power Smoothie”, “Monster Punch”, “Ninja Turtle Drink” or come up with your own creative name.

If you just can’t get your child to eat vegetables, first – be patient. It can take up to 15 exposures before a child is willing to give a new food a chance. But there are sneaky ways to get vegetables into your kid’s diet. Puree!, says “Sneaky Chef” Missy Chase Levine. Take a favorite – such as boxed Macaroni and Cheese – and mix in a puree made of carrots and sweet potatoes. You can even sneak in a white bean puree into a cake mix – and your kids will never know.

Of course, ultimately, the very best way to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables – and other healthy foods – is to model the behavior yourself. Shop together at a farmer’s market, grow your own garden, and have dinner together as a family. These activities can go a very long way in growing a healthy eater.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Parenting Magazine
Sneaky Chef