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my 7 year old son will not eat ANY fruits or vegetables, despite good modeling by parents and many offerings. He eats tomato sauce on pizza, but no raisins, smoothies, veggies arranged in fun ways with dips, etc. I have tried all the tricks, even hiding them in things but he often figures it out. We are not applying huge pressure, but do worry about it. He is also allergic to peanuts, which may make him careful. Do you have any suggestions to get him to eat more heathfully?

It is sometimes a struggle to get children to eat their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. I know that trying to give your children proper nutrition can be frustrating, but don’t give up! The best advice is to offer him the healthy options and let him learn for himself what he likes and doesn’t like. In time, he will learn to enjoy more of the nutritious foods that you prepare for him! In the meantime, here are a few ideas:
  1. Add fruits and vegetables to the dishes he already loves. You mentioned he likes tomato sauce of pizza. What about spaghetti sauce on top of the noodles?  These tomato products are nutritious and don’t have the seeds that some children don’t like.
  2. Introduce him to fruit juice, since fruit juice counts towards his fruit servings for the day. There are several varieties available that offer both vegetables and fruit in each serving of their juice!  (Just don’t rely solely on juice for all of his fruits/vegetables.)
  3. How about beans? You can mash chickpeas and make hummus and than spread this on toast.  This is not only a great source of protein, but counts as a vegetable too!
  4. Sometimes it takes multiple “tastes” before a child learns to like new foods, so tell him that he needs to at least taste the food and that perhaps his taste buds just “aren’t old enough” to like them yet… explain that taste buds do mature with age.
  5. Sometimes cooked veggies are stronger in flavor than those that are raw (they often taste different raw vs cooked anyway), so consider having him try them raw first.
  6. Get your children involved in the preparation and cooking process. This will help him learn about healthy eating and be more excited about his fruits and vegetables.
  7. Sign up for our free newsletter for more ways to keep your children healthy and happy.
  8. And while it sounds like you’re doing many of these things, just keep doing them… it will eventually “catch on.” Setting a good example and having it available, especially when he’s hungry, and you’d be surprised what gets eaten!
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  1. I am surprised that you recommeded juice without recommending a limit on the amount. I find that parents think it’s okay to give unlimited amounts of juice. Also, no fiber, so not the best choice and rarely leads to “eating” more vegetables.
    Also, I do not think of beans as a vegetable, but as a protein alternative. This could confuse people.
    Lilli Wells, MS, RD

  2. Yes, I agree that juice is not a substitute for the whole fruit or veg. I am a WIC nurse and I often find that overweight kids are drinking 3 or more cups of juice a day. Juice causes too much insulin to be secreted and should be limited to 1/2 c/day for smaller kids.

    I would also suggest that you do not pressure your child at all–it doesn’t work. Check out Ellyn Satter’s website, specifically: Parents Provide, Kids Decide.


  3. I agree with the comment above about Ellyn Satter’s philosophy of not pressuring kids. Here’s another article from Super Kids Nutrition website that references what Rajanna said and also answers this same question about getting kids to like fruits and vegetables!

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The Expert: Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, is the President and CEO of the Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation. At PBH, she guides the Foundation’s efforts to advance the overall effort of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.
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