Parents usually don’t have a hard time getting their kids to eat cookies, cupcakes, candy and chips. Why? Because they are yummy. But how can we get kids to feel the same way about fruits and vegetables?
Here are some helpful tips to make these healthy foods irresistible to kids:
Make it into ‘fries’
A wide variety of veggies can be made into fries, says nutritional therapy practitioner Jennifer Scribner, author of “From Mac & Cheese to Veggies, Please: How to Get Your Kid to Eat New Foods, End Picky Eating Forever, and Stay Sane in the Process.” “Your child might be open to try butternut squash, broccoli stalk, carrot, beet, or zucchini fries,” she says. “All it takes is cutting different veggies into stick shapes and baking them.” Scriber adds that using purple or sweet potatoes will bring more antioxidants to your kids’ meals than pre-made French fries.
Serve fun shapes and styles
“I have found food art to be an amazing connector with kids,” says registered diet technician Shannon Mazzei, creator of the Instagram account @foodartfun. “I use all types of fruits and vegetables in my art, but I swear if you put eyes on an apple it will be more interesting. Cut an apple in half, lay it flat, with two slices of banana and two blueberries. Blamo! You have a face and a fruity snack.” Mazzei emphasizes that creativity leads to fun and engagement.
Add umami-flavored ingredients
Enhancing the sense of taste by adding umami-flavored ingredients can actually change the flavor sensation on our tongue, says Chef Gigi Gaggero, author of “Food Fight: For Parents of Picky Eaters,” noting that umami occurs naturally in foods, including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy. “Umami is helpful in creating flavor combinations that make your tongue and brain happy, so with a little bit of knowledge about which foods contain the fifth taste, you can get the same hard-to-put-your-finger-on sensation,” she says. “I love to introduce umami to picky eaters’ parents because it creates a pleasant savory taste and blends well with other flavors. Most people cannot recognize umami flavors, so your child will never know you have created a delicious flavor using a dash of fish sauce, dried fish flakes, a sprinkling of mushroom powder or tomato paste.”
Let them choose
“Getting kids engaged in choosing new fruits and veggies entices them to try the finished result,” says Scribner. She suggests allowing your kid to pick out the weirdest- looking veggie, or one that’s their favorite color, at the market. “Maybe they’ll choose the fractal look of Romanesco broccoli, chard with bright red stems, or a bunch of pastel- colored radishes.” Then, search online together to learn how to prepare it.
Lead by example
“One of the most powerful ways to teach a child anything is to model the kind of behavior you want to see them emulate,” says Gaggero. “If you want your children to become adults who enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods, make sure you eat the foods you’d like them to eat.” She suggests parents encourage their kids to help with small jobs in the kitchen, such as mixing ingredients and setting the table. “Allow them to smell, touch, taste and play with the food. Not everyone will eat foods they prepare, but preparing will pique interest in it. Don’t force it to happen. Touching foods they would normally not consume is a very good first step.”