Glance at a kids’ menu at any restaurant and you’ll see things like chicken fingers, cheeseburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. While those are all tasty dishes (and a central part of most children’s lives!), wouldn’t it be amazing if your kid was just as excited to chow down veggies, fruit, and other plant-based foods? It may seem far-fetched, but there are a few simple ways to do just that. Scroll down for six tips for turning picky eaters into part-time herbivores.
Be a Super(foods) Model
Eating is one of those things where it’s just not enough to tell your kids what to do; you have to show them. Research shows that when a child sees their parents enjoying foods like broccoli, spinach, plums, and other fruits and veggies, they will eat more of those items themselves. Family dinners are a great time to do this: Just include a vegetable each night and show how much you love the taste of it.
Leafy greens like spinach and kale are barely detectable when blended into a smoothie with berries and bananas. Up the nutrient quotient with a powdered, plant-based mix-in like Else, which is a Clean Label Project–approved blend of almonds, tapioca, and buckwheat fortified with vitamins and minerals. Use its Complete Nutrition for Toddlers as a milk alternative, or try the Plant Protein Nutritional Shake for Kids in vanilla or chocolate for a low-sugar flavor boost.
Pile On the Produce
Because many parents don’t want to waste food, they put a tiny amount of veggies on their kids’ plates. After all, they probably won’t eat much, right? But you might want to add a second scoop of cauliflower: One study found kids served a double serving of veggies ate 68 percent more of said veggies than kids who were given smaller portions. If there are leftovers, put the vegetables in separate plastic containers to serve the next day.
You might think it’s overkill, but keep putting the same fruit or vegetable on your child’s plate over and over (and over) again—even if they never take a bite. This is because repeated exposure increases babies’ and toddlers’ acceptance of that food. So just when you start to feel ridiculous for putting tomato slices on their dinner plate for the 20th time, they may surprise you and sample them.
Break Out of a Rut
Repetition may breed familiarity, but new foods can spark interest. Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab some produce you don’t usually buy. Or, better yet, allow your kid to pick out something unique. The more variety of fruits and veggies you expose a toddler to, the likelier they are to try something new. Jackfruit anyone?
Let Kids Play With Food
Deep breaths, mess-hating mamas. Allowing your child to pull apart a piece of broccoli ups the odds they’ll tase it (the first step to enjoying it). One study found preschoolers were more likely to eat fruits and veggies when they were allowed to pull, prod, and play away. And when those same kids were offered produce later that day, they were more likely to eat it. Let the games begin?!
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