Children are like sponges. They soak up everything around them— everything they hear, but most importantly, everything they see and do. Take advantage of your child’s adventurous and malleable state, get her/him hooked on eating fruits and vegetables early!
Make the biggest impact and teach by example. What better way to show your child how important fruits and vegetables are than including colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal? Check out these ideas …
Be a role model. Take the Half Your Plate pledge. Load up your plate with assorted colors of fruits and vegetables. Resist making funny faces when serving vegetables and fruits you may not have liked in the past—your children will catch on. The more you enjoy eating fruits and vegetables, the more your children will too.
Experiment. Get your family excited about trying new foods. Each week, introduce them to a new fruit, vegetable or herb from a different culture. Choose various forms of fruits and vegetables such as canned, fresh, frozen or dried and be sure to pair new fruits and vegetables with recognizable foods like hummus, peanut butter and yogurt dips.
Get them involved. Have children help pack their lunches and prepare meals, and make it fun! Here’s how …
- Compete for the most colorful lunch
- Cut apples into boat shapes or peppers into butterflies
- Create a yogurt parfait with different fruits each day
- Mix together trail mix with dried cranberries, nuts, cereal and chocolate chips
- Add spices and herbs to different dishes
More fun ways to include fruits and vegetables in your meals …
Breakfast Mix plain oatmeal with ground cinnamon and strawberries
Snack Create a banana and peanut butter sandwich in a whole wheat hot dog bun
Lunch Enjoy homemade chili with carrots, celery, onions, no salt added diced tomatoes, 2-3 different types of beans, and soy burger crumbles
Dinner Top baked or broiled fish with mango salsa, complement with a side of sautéed spinach and brown rice.
Dessert Dip apple slices in low-fat vanilla yogurt
Carrie Taylor, RD, LDN
Lead Registered Dietitian for the Living Well Eating Smart Program
Big Y Foods
University of Rhode Island