How to Get More Veggies Into Your Family

You know you need to eat more vegetables. Just about everyone does. But if you, your partner, or your kids don’t exactly love them, how is that going to happen?

It can be simpler and more delicious than you think. And the first place to start is actually not with your grocery list or a deep dive into online recipes. It’s with one of the biggest things that affects what you choose to eat: desire.

Make It Irresistible

It’s the golden rule of food. Taste matters. A lot. It has to taste good.

“Salt and pepper might not be enough,” says Isabel Maples, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Experiment with different spice blends from the supermarket, add soy sauce to stir-frys, or roast veggies with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with parmesan. You can also serve steamed veggies with a side of tomato or cheese sauce.

Become an Iron Chef

The I-want-to-eat-that feeling can start when you shop. Kids are more willing to try new fruits and veggies if they get to pick them out themselves.

Head to a farmer’s market or to the store to see what’s in season.  Bring it home and “find a recipe and make it together,” says Barbara Mendez, a nutrition and wellness consultant in New York. 

You could even make it a (friendly) competition so everyone gets involved.

One winning strategy is to add fruits and veggies to dishes your family already likes. Slip finely chopped veggies into kid-pleasers like spaghetti sauce, tuna salad, and chicken soup. Shred carrot or zucchini into meatloaf or casseroles.

You can also replace oil or butter in baked goods with a 1:1 ratio of pumpkin puree. You’ll increase nutrients and cut fat, says Torey Armul, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Allow a Veto

Did your parents make you eat your spinach every time? That’s not the best strategy.

Always offer veggies at mealtime, but give kids the option to say no. “You don’t want them to feel trapped,” Maples says. “If you don’t make meals fun, food becomes a battle.” 

"The goal is for you to reach for fruits and veggies at every meal and really like them,” Maples says.

Stick with it! “Some children need to see a new food on their plate 5, 10, or even 12 times before they’ll try it,” Maples says. (They also need to see you eating it.)

Go Trendy

People can pay as much as $10 for a deluxe drink at a smoothie bar. Save your cash. Simply toss a mixture of fruits and veggies into a blender with some milk, yogurt, juice, or ice, and blend until smooth.

 “Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to try new fruits and veggies without overwhelming kids,” Armul says.

Insist on Easy

Out of sight, out of mind. Store washed and cut baby carrots, celery sticks, and pepper strips eye-level in your fridge.  “You want these to be the first snack options you and your family see,” Mendez says. 

Loosen Up the Family Meal

Research shows that kids eat more produce when the family eats together. But relax. No guilt!

“Family meals don’t have to include the whole family,” Maples says.  “Sitting down to breakfast or a snack with your child also counts.”

 Turn off your phone and focus on each other and your food.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 06, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago.

Isabel Maples, MEd, RD, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Washington D.C.

Barbara Mendez, RPh, MS, nutritionist and wellness consultant, New York.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Tips to Help You Eat Fruits,” “Tips to Help You Eat Vegetables.”

American Heart Association: “About Fruits and Vegetables.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Vegetables and Fruit.”

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: “Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “How To Get Your Child to Eat More Fruits and Veggies.”

CDC: “Encourage Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies.”

U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: “Build a Healthy Base.”

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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