Would it surprise you to hear that one of the most common methods of getting children to eat their veggies actually has the opposite effect? According to a study at the University of Chicago that involved 270 preschool-aged children, presenting fruits and vegetables as something that should be eaten because it is “good for you” actually delivers the message that “this isn’t going to taste good.”
Forcing Each Other to Eat Well Backfires
When parents introduce food as something that will make kids healthier, grow faster, get taller, or even stronger, kids seem to be hearing that those foods must not taste very good. The results of the study from Chicago back up the results of an earlier study in Australia that found that children younger than two were less likely to eat fruit if their mothers pressured them to eat it.
Healthy Eating Starts With Mom and Dad
So what should you do? Parents can’t give up on encouraging their kids to eat those things that will promote long-term health. Fruits and vegetables need to part of everyone’s diet, young and old, to ensure the best possible health. The most effective answer is for parents to eat their vegetables.
The simple step of setting an example at the dinner table is the best way to encourage youngsters to meet their nutrition goals. Parents who present vegetable dishes without commentary and who eat it as a matter of course are more likely to have children who also eat and enjoy their vegetables. This may mean that you need to change your schedule to accommodate family meals. Present the vegetables without pressuring your kids to eat it.
Effective Encouragement for Healthy Eating
If you feel that you still have to encourage the children, then try to make the foods colorful and fun. Offer moderate amounts of sauces or dips. This tactic will be more beneficial and is more likely to lead to lifelong habits. A few other suggestions for making fruits and vegetables fun rather than mundane include:
- Allowing your children to choose a new fruit or vegetable each week
- Involve your children in the creation of menus and during grocery shopping
- Plant a family garden
- Visit a farmers’ market with the kids
- Let children help during food preparation
As you begin with your own actions – making fruits and vegetables a regular part of your own meals – your kids will pick up on this. Your whole family will come to appreciate these healthy foods for the tasty additions that they truly can be. As healthy eating becomes a habit for you, it will also inspire lifelong habits in your kids.