This post has been a long time coming. Over the past few years of blogging I’ve had lots and lots of people ask me, “How on earth do you get your kids to eat all those fruits and vegetables?” I hate the thought of sounding like a preachy-know-it-all-Mommy-Blogger, so I’ve put off posting my answer to that. But, at the risk of sounding like a preachy-know-it-all-Mommy-Blogger, here goes—My attempt at a Top 10 List of Our Secrets for Getting Young Kids to Eat Lots of Fruits and Veggies.
- Start them young. We were letting all three of our kids gnaw on fresh fruit and veggies at very young ages. People worry about choking hazards, and rightfully so, but –whenever safely humanly possible— we have tried to let our bambinos eat the real deal as early as it can possibly be introduced. We are big believers in the baby fruit net (here is the one we always used, but there are tons on the market), and we used it early and often for all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
- Raw & fresh. We have always conscientiously worked hard to provide fruits and veggies raw and fresh. That means a lot of time spent cutting and chopping (major hassle), and it also means very high weekly grocery bills (seriously painful!), but it is worth it if it is at all possible (so sadly, and unfortunately, definitely not possible for many families to shell out the required cash; we are grateful that we can prioritize healthy food in this way).
- Eat fruits & veggies in their presence. Young kids mimic us, so we need to model for them. Braydon and I are big on fresh, raw fruits and veggies ourselves, and our kids see us eating it. This is hugely important because they want to do what we’re doing and eat what we’re eating. Fruits and veggies need to be a family affair!
- Make it finger-food/bite-sized. Chop it and slice it and dice it to make it easy to pop in the mouth. This is key as key can be. It is amazing how quickly platters of fruit and veggies will disappear around here if it is “cut” instead of “big” (as K, O, and M call it).
- Make it look good. If we handed them a pear, a banana, and a bunch of blueberries, it just wouldn’t be the same as presenting them with a platter that looks like the picture above (top of post). Braydon and I try to have some fun with this when we can make the time to do it (the photo is a platter that Braydon created one day). I think kids know when we’ve put some heart and soul into things. They appreciate it at some level. And they like it. We’ve been doing beautiful fruit and veggie platters for our kids since they were tiny toddlers. They love it. And don’t we (as adults) too? If it is pretty and colorful it seems a lot more appealing than it otherwise might be.
- Dips. We are big into dips, especially for veggies. And by “dips” around here, we’re generally referring to store-bought salad dressings. Ranch and Thousand Island are favorites for our three. Vinaigrettes too. They also love yogurt for dipping with fruit. And then, of course there is…
- Hummus. And other extras. Such as cheese, crackers, chips & salsa, nuts, etc. to go with a nice spread of fruits and veggies. These things mix it up, make fruits and veggies more fun, and add some breadth and depth and texture… and some good old fashioned protein. A bunch of baby carrots is one thing. A bunch of baby carrots with a nice little bowl of hummus to dip them in is another.
- Fruits & Veggies as “Appetizers.” We are big on the fruit and/or veggie platter as an “hors d’oeuvres.” While I’m making dinner we’ll often put a platter on the counter and the bambinos will go to town! They are hungry, they’re waiting for supper, and before you know it, the fruits and veggies are devoured. This does a couple of things: for one, it gets them to eat fruits and veggies right up front, and it also means that I don’t need to worry as much about serving a salad or vegetable with the meal.
- Buy it in bulk. I know this might sound crazy, but I’ve found that the best produce is at our bulk-club-store (you know… BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s, etc.). Seriously, believe it or not, that’s where I consistently find the best-quality, freshest, best-priced fruits and veggies. And when you’re eating as much of it as we are, buying it in bulk is a great way to go.
Be as calm, cool, and collected about it as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever put fruits and veggies in front of my kids and said, “EAT IT!” I just act very laid-back about it from beginning to end. I put it out, without saying much about it, and then when it disappears I don’t say much about it either. There’s no big fanfare when they eat it, or when they don’t. I swear, this –playing it cool— is the most important trick in the book. Our approach has been sort of the polar opposite of the “sneak it in”-“hide-it-in-something-they’ll-eat” approach; rather than sneak fruits and veggies in to other things, we’ve been right up front about it from the start. We don’t make a big thing over how “healthy” or “good” fruits and veggies are; rather, we simply give it to them, without batting an eye, as if it were perfectly normal for a 2-year-old to eat raw broccoli and celery sticks. They don’t know otherwise… so they don’t know that, for example, kids are “supposed” to hate peas. And by the time they realize that… it is too late (because they already like peas).
What are your tips and tricks?