Get your picky eaters to eat and like vegetables

Vegetables have many health benefits, but picky eaters often need some additional persuasion to get them to eat their vegetables.

Vegetables, whether fresh, frozen or canned, have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of developing some types of cancers, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. They are also naturally low in calories and fat, and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them a great snack or addition to any meal.

The health benefits alone, however, are not enough to get kids – or some adults – to want to eat them. Picky eaters can turn mealtime into a battle of wills, leaving everyone involved frustrated. To minimize the frustration and bring peace to the dinner table, here are some suggestions to help boost vegetable intake, especially with those picky eaters:

  • Secret ingredient: chop or puree vegetables into other dishes, like meatloaf, casseroles and sauces. For example, mash up sweet potatoes and mix it in with macaroni and cheese or add pureed veggies to marinara sauce to use in lasagna or on top of pasta.
  • Dress it up: use a low-fat salad dressing as a dip for fresh cut vegetables or peanut butter on celery.
  • Get involved: have your kids help in the kitchen in ways that are appropriate for their age, like mixing, measuring or chopping. Children that help cook feel a sense of pride and ownership of the food, and therefore are more likely to at least try it.
  • Play with your food: Turn mealtime into playtime and make food into fun shapes and sizes. Use fresh vegetables and toothpicks to make veggie sculptures and encourage kids to eat their artwork.
  • Give choices: have your picky eaters each take turns choosing a new vegetable to try when you are doing your grocery shopping. If they pick it out they are more likely to try it.
  • Be a role model: make sure your picky eaters are seeing you and older siblings eat vegetables for some positive reinforcement.

One good resource for healthy eating is the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate. This is the new healthy eating icon that replaced MyPyramid. Visit their site for tips and resources on the recommended servings for each of the food groups based on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Additionally, there are recipes, activities for kids and much more.

The Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Bookstore also has nutrition fact sheets. Remember: it takes seven to 15 tries for a child to taste a new food, so it may not be that your picky eater doesn’t like a vegetable, they just haven’t learned to like it yet.

For more information on nutrition visit the MSUE Bookstore and the Food & Health page on the MSU Extension website.

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