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Creative, sneaky strategies like hiding vegetables in sauces and baked goods or making food into fun animal shapes are fodder for best-selling books, blogs and Instagram feeds, but if you’re like most moms, your efforts to get your kids to eat their veggies can seem like a waste of time, and you’re probably fed-up. If you really want your kids to eat better and make those healthy habits stick, a new study out of the University of Finland says it’s pretty easy: eat vegetables yourself and get dad to do the same.
The new study, published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, researchers used survey data from the parents of 114 kindergarten-aged children in Finland.
They looked at the consumption of both vegetables and fruit, including berries, and the family’s home environment. They divided the food into two groups: (1) raw and cooked vegetables and (2) fruit and berries, and analyzed them separately.
After looking at the data, they found that there were different factors at play when it came to what the kids would eat.
Interestingly, moms who ate all of the fruits and vegetables had children who were more likely to eat them as well.
When it came to fathers however, the same was true only for cooked vegetables.
“This shows that teaching children to eat their greens is not something mothers should be doing alone. A positive example set by both parents is important, as is their encouragement of the child,” lead researcher Kaisa Kähkönen stated in this press release.
The study also uncovered some interesting insights about the families’ habits.
Since the families who participated in the study often ate dinner together, the researchers say that the implication is that in doing so, it’s one of the most effective ways to teach kids to eat their vegetables.
The reason is that dinner provides an opportunity every day to serve vegetables in different ways including as a main course, side dish, and as a salad.
While that is true, finding ways to serve kids vegetables for breakfast and adding more vegetables to lunches are additional opportunities for kids to see, smell, touch and try, and eventually grow to love vegetables.
When it came to fruit however, researchers found that snacks in the evening—presumably after dinner—were found to be the most important meal to encourage kids to eat them.
Despite the fact that parents can promote healthy eating habits, the study found that families are still eating less fruits and vegetables than they should and cooked veggies and berries in particular, were eaten the least.
PRACTICAL TIPS TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT THEIR VEGGIES
Modeling healthy eating habits makes perfect sense when it comes to encouraging your kids to eat healthy, but a lack of time and hectic schedules can make it tough. Here are some easy, realistic ways to get your kids to eat their veggies.
Make a salad
My kids love salad and I’m certain it’s because it’s been something my husband and I eat frequently and have served it to our kids since they were toddlers.
Salad is also quick and easy to pull together, whether you chop it yourself (this wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna set is my favorite tool) or buy a salad kit.
Need help getting started? Read my blog post “How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad.”
Try out a new recipe
Who says you have to be a gourmet chef or have amazing cooking skills to get your kids to eat healthy? All you need is a recipe!
Look for healthy and delicious recipes for fruits and vegetables and get your kids in the kitchen too.
Transform ho-hum vegetables into “yum!”
If veggies don’t taste good, kids aren’t going to eat them. Here are some ways to make them more appealing:
- Roasted, sautéed, grilled or spiralized.
- Add a pat of grass fed butter.
- Serve with a dip.
- Use herbs and spices.
- Make root vegetables into “chips” or “fries.”
Did you know that it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it?
If your kid refuses to eat certain types of veggies, he may very well not like it. Heck—we all have our food preferences, don’t give up on the first few tries because something he initially refused can become his new favorite.