Vegetables and fruits can be a tough sell for youngsters. But two simple changes in your family’s eating habits can help make sure that your children get enough of these healthy foods every day.
Researchers studied more than 300 families with 3- to 5-year-olds. Half were randomly assigned to take part in a phone-based program to boost the amount of fruits and vegetables the kids ate. The other half served as a control group.
At follow-ups both 2 months and 1 year later, kids in the program ate more fruits and veggies than those in the control group. At the 12-month mark, their scores had improved 2 points on a scale of 0 to 28. This corresponds with 2 extra servings or types of fruits and veggies per day.
Kids follow parents’ lead
Not all those gains lasted through 18 months, though. When the researchers looked at why the program worked—or didn’t—they found 2 keys to success.
One key was serving up produce more times during the day—not only at meals, but also as snacks. Even if kids don’t grab every chance, offering fruits and veggies more often seems to increase the amount they ate overall.
The second key was how many servings of fruits and veggies the parents ate. The findings suggest parents who follow a healthy diet tend to have kids who eat the same way.
Make the most of every eating occasion
The best approach is to serve—and eat—fruits and veggies at every meal and snack.
- Breakfast. Add fruit to yogurt or oatmeal, or cook veggies into an omelet.
- Snacks. Serve up fresh fruit or raw veggies with dip. Pair with a refreshing glass of vegetable juice.
- Lunch. Layer extra veggies on sandwiches. Serve with a side of sliced apples or baked chips and vegetable-rich salsa.
- Dinner. Cook up a veggie-rich stir-fry, or make pasta sauce or tacos with finely chopped vegetables instead of meat.