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How to Encourage Your Child to Eat Vegetables

Just like adults, children should aim for five servings of nutritious fruits or vegetables a day. They’re good sources of fiber, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, they’re low in fat, and they’re important for good health and development. Even if your child isn’t crazy about vegetables, you can get her to eat them — and happily — by using these tips:

  • Offer to cut raw veggies as snacks. Many kids prefer uncooked vegetables to cooked ones and especially like to dip them. Try bean dip, hummus, salsa, or plain, lowfat yogurt flavored with seasonings as an accompaniment.

  • Know that bright colors and crisp textures are kid winners. Steam or microwave veggies in a small amount of water to avoid overcooking them. You want them to be firm to the bite.

  • Sneak them in! Add peas to mac and cheese; add shredded carrots or other vegetables to spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chili, tuna salad, or even peanut butter.

  • Bake them in. Try lowfat zucchini and carrot muffins — your kids won’t know what hit them!

  • Stir in finely chopped vegetables. Add them to meatloaf, ground turkey, ground beef, rice, or mashed potatoes.

  • Start a garden. Most kids eat vegetables that they grow themselves — and are proud to share the bounty with the rest of the family. You can even grow lettuce in a warm, sunny window in the middle of winter.

One way to add variety is to offer many vegetable-rich, crunchy, fresh foods at breakfast, lunch, and snack time. Another way is to expand the kinds of restaurants you visit. Try Mexican food one night, pizza another, and a seafood dinner occasionally, and add in Asian cuisine.

Not only do these various cuisines allow your children to open their taste buds to new foods and experiences and add adventure to their meals, but they also add variety — which means that they’ll get a wide array of vitamins and minerals in addition to enjoying their food.

Research indicates that children need plenty of exposures to a new or novel food before it’s accepted. Therefore, you may want to set up some family rules where everyone (mother and father included) should taste every item on their plate. You can use the child’s age to determine the number of bites. Setting an expectation increases the likelihood of acceptance — without tasting the food, a child will never be able to like the food.

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