People spend a lot of time picking my brain and asking me questions about how to get their kids to eat more fruit and vegetables so I thought I would breakdown this past year and reflect on how I made it happen. Granted, I had always served up fruit and veggies, but it was taken to a whole new level this year. My kids probably have 8-10 servings a day if I put them out for them. Some days are tougher than others to get perfect with everyone being on the run, but put the effort forth and you will be amazed at how nourished you all can actually be. Dr Greger has many videos on the after and cites some interesting an funny studies on how to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables.. put an Elmo sticker on broccoli and it is suddenly as attractive as a chocolate bar...
Here is a list of the things I think are most important in getting your kids to buy in:
1. EDUCATE. It is not enough to say, "Eat this, it is good for you." Sit down one night, put on Forks Over Knives and watch it with your family. It is a great place to start. It definitely kept my kids' attention and they wanted to try healthier foods.
2. EAT PRODUCE YOURSELF. Monkey see, monkey do. This works especially well when they are little, but definitely works as they are turning into teens as well. They are certainly not going to pound down a bunch of brussel sprouts while you eat a bag of chips. Add more produce to your diet, and I guarantee they will add more to theirs. Sounds like a win/win to me. Most people who tell me that their kids hate all fruits and veggies have not really given them a good try themselves.
3. BUY TONS OF FRUIT AND VEGGIES. Well this one sounds like a big duhhhh, but it is where most people run into trouble. They buy fruits and veggies, the kids eat them in a day of so, and they don't buy more for another week. So when the kids get home they eat Gino's pizza bites and Doritos instead of carrots, cukes, red peppers and hummus, or a strawberry banana smoothie. They can only eat what is there in front of them or in the fridge. If it ain't there they ain't eatin' it. Seems so obvious, but even I run into trouble with this one since it is not like you can keep this stuff around in a pantry for weeks and weeks. More frequent trips to the store are required. It is part of the price of keeping your family healthy. There are many Farm Fresh to You type delivery companies, and stores like Grow in Manhattan Beach that delivery fruit and veggies right to you door. Buying fresh at farmers markets versus from the supermarket ensures that they will last longer since they are just picked. A lot of times when you get them at the store they are several days old already. They will last longer if you get them from the farmers market. Also, Amazon fresh is another option that will deliver right to your door.
4. PUT OUT 3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF CUT UP FRUIT AND VEGETABLES EVERY SINGLE MEAL. EVERY SINGLE DAY. DO IT WHEN THEY ARE STARVING. It works. They get used to seeing them and actually decide to try them. Especially when they are hungry. Always serve a fruit at breakfast. You get one down early in the day and have a head start! Pick a few fruits and veggies that your kids like and put those out when they get home from school and are starving and every week add a new one. If your kids are little call them cute things like "trees" for broccoli, and "bunny carrots" for carrots. Make them try all of them. Even if it is just a bite. I am a big believer in the 15th try is a charm. I definitely felt a little relentless with this, but it paid off. Keep putting them out and, pick at them yourself and they will too. Don't make a big deal out of it. Put em out, eat some yourself and if they are hungry, they will pick at them too. My friend actually tried suggestion last week and emailed me the next day so excited that her kids actually ate the veggies that she put out,and the next day asked for an apple instead of junk after school. So simple. You just have to actually DO IT!
5. TRY DIFFERENT WAYS OF PREPARING. My older son is not into raw kale, but both of my kids love roasted kale. I take it out of the oven and it's gone in minutes. Same goes for roasted brussel sprouts. I tried steaming them once and wrote them off, then we were out at dinner and the kids tried them roasted (actually they were deep fried... whatever it takes to get them to try them I guess.)That translated into I like brussel sprouts because now I just need to roast them with a little olive oil and salt and they fight over them. Soups are another way to get them in big time.
6. BLEND EM. Put a ripe banana in most shakes and kids will drink it. Kids love shakes and smoothies. For years my son drank a shake made of oranges, bananas, strawberries and a ton of frozen broccoli. I put it in a colored glass so he didn't know it was green and he would pound it down. These days, green drinks abound so kids a lot of don't even flinch at the color if they taste good. I always put 2 T of flax or chia in every shake that I make and no one even knows. You can't taste it and if you have a vitamix it is ground up to nothing. I also make sorbet or acai bowls with strawberries, blueberries, mango, bananas, flax and acai in all dofferent types of combinations, with a little coconut on top and my little guys LOVES it. Invest in V-mix!!! I have used mine at least 2X a day for 14 years now and it is still going strong. Best investment ever. Here are some creative smoothie ideas that I have tried. Each one is better than the next!
7. SNEAK EM IN..... ADD VEGGIES TO PASTA SAUCES. I will always great a couple zucchini, carrots, red peppers, some onions, and broth sauté them till they are very well done, blend them up with a blender or hand held immersion blender, then add them to my sauce. They don't even know they're there and they're getting a ton of veggies this way.
8. GET IT IN YOUR HEAD THAT EATING MORE FRUIT AND VEG TAKES A LITTLE MORE TIME AND EFFORT, AND DEAL WITH IT!! Yes, it is easier to pop open a bag of chips than it is to cut up red peppers and cucumbers. It is also easier to use a jar of sauce than grate zucchini carrots and other veggies into the sauce. But what you get out of it is superior nutrition for your kids and that carries over it later in their lives by preventing diseases like cancer and diabetes