10 Tips help kids get more fruits and vegetables

Get more color on kids plates and healthy food in their mouths.

When children are young, their taste buds and food habits grow as fast as they do. This makes it a great time to encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and make great snacks or side dishes. Kids, in particular, should eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day for health benefits. As parents know, sometimes it is a struggle getting them to try new things. Michigan State University Extension recommends giving these 10 tips a try to get more color on their plate and healthy fruits and vegetables in their mouths.

Show ‘em how it’s done!

If your kids see you chomping on broccoli they will be much more likely to do the same; if you want nothing to do with fruit then chances are they won’t either. They learn from watching you, so get excited about adding more colorful fruits and vegetables to your own plate! Check out Michigan Fresh for recipe ideas.

Family taste test

Get the whole family in on the action! Try a new vegetable together as a family, have everyone go around the table and share their opinion (even if it wasn’t their favorite, congratulate them for trying something new). Be adventurous!

Team work on aisle three!

Bring your kids to the grocery store, and let them help pick out produce for the family. Check ahead of time what fruits and vegetables are on sale or in-season at your local grocery store and give the kids a choice between items in your food budget. For information on what fruits and vegetables are in-season in Michigan, visit projectfresh.msu.edu

Keep ‘em separated

Kids can be funny about their eating habits; in fact studies even show that kids are more likely to eat vegetables if they are separate from each other. If you have a little one who doesn’t like mixed vegetable dishes, try serving each vegetable separately.

Guest chef

Kids are hands-on learners; if they get to help make a food item they will be likely to eat it. Have them help wash, peel, chop (upper elementary age and older), stir or cook the fruit and vegetable dish on the menu that day. Don’t forget – a good chef tastes their dish before serving it. End by giving your guest chef a shout-out during mealtime. For healthy low-cost recipes visit usda.gov/whatscooking

Make it easy

In busy families sometimes it is easy to just grab a bag of chips or a few cookies on the way out the door – but, not in your house! Have fruits and/or vegetables cut-up and easy to reach, and keep the chips/goodies up on a shelf for treats or special occasions.

Get down on the farm

Now that it’s warm outside again, get your farm on! Your local farmer’s market has a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from, and shopping for them with your kids will be fun and may save you money. Farms even give tours, so you can see how fruits and vegetables are grown and connect with where food comes from. To find a farmer’s market visit www.mifma.org. To find a breakfast on the farm visit breakfastonthefarm.com

All about the attitude

Don’t lose hope! It can take kids eight to 10 tries of a new food before they accept it, so if they aren’t thrilled right away, try again later, maybe using a different recipe. Always encourage them to try new things, but avoid forcing fruits and vegetables since this creates negative feelings associated with that food. A positive attitude goes a long way!

Two bite club

Enforce the “two bite club” rule, where kids are encouraged to take two bites of a new food. If they do not like it, then its two bites and “no thank you.” If they do like the taste of the new food then, “yes please.” Not only do they get to try something new, but they get to practice using their manners too!

Call dibs on dips!

Kids love to dunk fruits and veggies in dips. Dips can be inexpensive, easy to make and make great snacks. Examples of dips include: peanut butter, hummus, guacamole, low-fat or fat-free yogurt and low-fat or fat-free ranch. For more healthy dip recipes visit usda.gov/whatscooking and search for “dips.”

 It’s never too late to try something new, so whether you are 3- or 103-years-old, try a few of these tips to eat more of nature’s nutritious fruits and vegetables. For more information on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables visit choosemyplate.gov and taste on!

To contact an expert in your area, visit people.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).