Do you struggle to get your kids to eat vegetables? Are you always trying to sneak them healthy snacks, only to be rebuffed? I remember the torment I used to put my parents through every time they’d mention the v-word: the whining, the bargaining, the “accidental” drop-on-the-floor-ing. Thanks to their persistence over the years, I’m now enthusiastic about incorporating veggies into my diet – but I’ll be the first to admit it took a lot of dedication on their part to make it happen. Don't stress, instead use our proven tactics for getting kids excited about healthy snacks.
It’s hard to say what causes kids to assume all vegetables are evil – familial eating habits, the processed foods packaged to look “cooler” than vegetables, or the stereotype that all kids hate them – but there are plenty of ways to break the cycle.
Here are 6 ways to get kids to eat healthy snacks (and the studies that back them):
1. Offer a variety of vegetables
Researchers from the University of Leeds, the University of Bourgogne, and the University of Copenhagen discovered a child’s enjoyment of healthy snacks isn’t related to how they’re prepared, but how frequently they’re offered. Mothers in the study who offered their children a variety of veggies were more successful at getting kids to eat them (on average, the children in the study were offered 17 out of the 36 vegetables included in the study).
2. Create a reward system
A study from University of College London found rewards don’t just get kids to eat vegetables, it also teaches them to actually like them! Children who were rewarded for eating healthy snacks continued to eat significantly more vegetables than the kids who weren’t rewarded.
3. Make vegetables an easy choice
According to the US Department of Agriculture, it's easier to get kids to eat healthy snacks when they’re within easy reach and displayed in an appealing fashion. This was my own mom’s strategy, who gave vegetables top billing in our fridge. Because they were easy to access and I could snack on them effortlessly throughout the day, I went from binging on junk to eating carrots by choice (which trust me, was considered miraculous!).
4. Offer a variety of dips
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that children with a sensitivity to bitterness were encouraged to eat more vegetables when dip was added to the equation. To get kids to eat vegetables, try offering applesauce, refined sugar-free caramel, hummus or low-fat yogurt as a dip.
5. Teach them to cook
Kids are more likely to eat healthy snacks they helped prepare (this is a trick I still use on myself!). A study published in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found when you teach kids about vegetables, and allow them to help prep and cook them, they’re more likely to eat larger portions.
6. Enjoy vegetables yourself
Kids who see an adult enjoying vegetables are more likely to eat them – even if they’ve turned their nose up at them in the past, according to a study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Bonus points if you smile! (I can totally vouch for this trick too. Thanks Mom!)
What tricks have you tried to get kids to eat vegetables?
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