EDITOR's NOTE: Dr. Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD Is preparing for the soon to arrive second Cardel child and family member of unknown gender. Gainesville's Lunch Out Blog will publish s few of our favorite Eating Healthy columns through the Summer months.
Getting children eating more vegetables
When it comes to getting children to eat vegetables, meals can become a battleground. With these five simple tips, you can give up some battles and still win the war.
Mothers should eat fruits and vegetables during pregnancy and lactation! Dr. Julie Mennella's research shows that what a mother eats can alter the taste of her amniotic fluid in the womb and the taste of breastmilk. Mennella's research shows that children exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables in the womb and during breastfeeding are more likely to like the foods they were exposed to.
Eat the foods you want your children to eat. If you are past the pregnancy or lactation phase – or you're a Dad, then be a role model by eating the foods you want your kids to eat. If you want them to eat more broccoli, then serve up a heaping pile on your own plate.
Give them veggies when they are hungry. A recent study published in the journal Appetite showed that giving school children veggies while they waited in the lunch line increased the amount of vegetables the kids ate. Replicate this at home by giving vegetables to children as their "first course" – when they are hungry.
Have cut up fruits and vegetables ready to eat. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that sliced fruit, rather than whole fruit, was more appealing to children because it is easier and cleaner to eat. Make it as easy to eat as possible: Have pre-cut fruit and vegetables in the fridge.
Serve a variety of foods and expose children to new foods at least 20 times. Children are naturally 'neophobic', or scared to try new foods. Evolutionarily this makes sense because a natural aversion to bitter foods would keep children from eating poisonous things. Unfortunately, many vegetables seem bitter to children at first. This is why experts recommend exposing children to new foods at least 20 times before deciding whether a child likes a food or not. While some children may be pickier than others due to genetics, exposing children to a variety of foods over and over again can reprogram their tastes. Persistence is key. Ultimately remember that it is the parent's job to determine what food to offer and when.