5 Ways To Help Kids Eat More Vegetables…and Enjoy Them!
No matter what type of learning students are engaged in this fall, healthy and balanced meals give them the energy and nutrition needed for learning and development. Children need at least five servings of colorful vegetables and fruits each day. This is an important way to help strengthen their immune systems to keep them stay healthy and strong as they learn and grow. Here are some ways to make this more fun and less of a struggle in a year that has already had more than enough stressful moments!
GROW THOSE VEGGIES
Children get excited about trying food that they’ve worked hard to grow. Setting aside a little space for a garden can be a great way to encourage children to taste new vegetables, get outside, and be active. It can also be a great way to teach science, math and reading skills. Now is the perfect time to plant a fall vegetable garden!
- Food can be grown in a container on a balcony, in a sunny windowsill, in a backyard garden or in a community garden plot. If you receive SNAP benefits, those can be used to purchase food producing plants for your garden.
- Parents can sign up to volunteer at the TAFB Learning Garden with children ages 10 and up to get some hands-on experience.
- TAFB also offers online gardening workshops at no cost to the community. These are posted to our YouTube Channel after the workshop ends.
EAT THE VEGGIES WITH THEM
Children tend to follow the actions of the adults around them more than verbal instructions. This means that when adults consistently eat vegetables, children are more likely to copy the behavior by trying the veggies as well. This can be tough for parents who struggle with eating certain vegetables. Tarrant Area Food Bank offers a Kitchen Garden Cooking School workshop each month to teach three new ways to prepare seasonal vegetables and fruits. The Recipe Library is another great resource to learn how to make vegetables tastier, such as the Rainbow Bell Pepper Boats for a one dish meal or Terrific Bean Tacos for Taco Tuesday. TAFB also continuously updates locations where food is available to make sure that everyone has access to vegetables.
LET KIDS PLAY WITH THEIR VEGGIES
Children love to have fun, explore and be creative. Allowing children to create pictures with their vegetables before they eat them can help them get familiar with new foods. This gives them a chance to experience the colors, textures and smells of the vegetables in a non-threatening way. Children often need to be exposed to a new food 15+ times before they will accept it. This doesn’t mean they need to be forced to eat it 15+ times; just presenting it on their plate and letting them check it out is best. Encourage children to make a clown face out of their vegetables or give them small cookie cutters to let the kids cut shapes out of vegetables like squash and cooked sweet potatoes. There are lots of great ideas for being creative with vegetable and fruit snacks.
USE VEGGIES AS SCOOPS
Children love to scoop things up on the playground, in the garden or at the beach. This is also true at the table. Serving healthy dips with vegetables can help children create positive connections to their food. Carrots, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers, onions and bell peppers all make great dippers for dips like hummus, guacamole, bean dip or cucumber yogurt dip with herbs. This may get a little messy, but it’s worth it! Laying a piece of butcher paper or a disposable tablecloth down on the table can help make clean-up easier. If you hand kids some crayons, they can even draw their own placemat covered in pictures of fruits and vegetables.
MIX THOSE VEGGIES INTO FUN FOODS
Many children love fun foods like smoothies, muffins, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and burgers. Using these familiar recipes can be a great way to add vegetables into their meals and improve their nutrition.
- A small handful of raw spinach leaves blended into a blueberry smoothie is almost invisible, and the taste is covered by the other ingredients like blueberries, banana and peanut butter.
- Zucchini or pumpkin bread or muffins are a delicious and nutritious start to the day; recipes that use whole grain flour and reduced sugar are healthiest.
- Grated zucchini, pureed sweet potato or canned pumpkin can be mixed into pancake batter for added nutrition.
- Macaroni and cheese is a great meal for a broccoli or cauliflower mix-in. Cauliflower can even be riced and made into pizza crusts!
- Burgers can be prepared with vegetable additions like including minced onion, garlic and peppers inside the patty and serving them with tomato slices and lettuce.
Keeping it fun can help keep kids healthy!