Do you struggle to get your child to try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables? Well, you're not alone. Many parents have children who are picky eaters, but don't give up! You can encourage even the pickiest of eaters to eat more fruits and vegetables each day.
Offer choice. Offering options can allow children to feel as though they are choosing to eat the food. So, instead of setting the plate before them, ask in advance if they want carrots or broccoli or both, or watermelon or strawberries or both. You might be surprised at what they choose. Also, when shopping, encourage your child to find the "best" apples, head of lettuce or whichever produce item interests them.
Appeal to the senses. Offer foods that taste and smell good. Mashed cauliflower may seem bland, so add a bit of low-fat cheese sauce. Can't get your child to try steamed broccoli? Drizzle it with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt. This tip works on fruit as well. For instance, dip the tips of strawberries in melted dark chocolate. This way they eat only a bit of dark chocolate, but a lot more fruit.
For younger children or toddlers, offer foods in a variety of textures and colors. Remember that like adults, toddlers eat with their eyes first. You can use cookie cutters to make almost anything into an appealing shape.
Be a good role model. If you're not eating fruits and vegetables, your child probably won't either. Remember to model positive eating behaviors. Your child will be more likely to follow along and will eat right along with you.
Don't give up! If your child refuses a food, says she hates it or even spits it out, offer it again another night, and then again. Remember that food preferences change as we grow and develop, so continue to encourage them to try different foods.
To learn more about your child's nutritional needs and how to add more fruits and vegetables to even the pickiest eater's plate, consult a registered dietitian in your area and visit www.kidseatright.org for videos, articles, recipes, tips and games.
Reviewed January 2013