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Homemaker’s Column: Getting Children to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

June 20, 2022

Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP

Summertime is in full swing, meaning the grocery store is colorful with fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce is at the most vibrant and tasty, providing the perfect opportunity to get kids to eat it. However, this task may be easier said than done. Often children have an adverse reaction to being asked to eat fruits and veggies. If you want your kids to eat more produce, the following easy tips will help.

Studies have shown that giving children choices can increase their fruit and veggie intake by as much as 15.6%! You can provide choices by letting kids pick their produce or at least give them options for which vegetables they want to pack in their lunch and eat at dinner.

Children like it when fruits and vegetables are in small, easy-to-eat, easy-to-grab, bite-sized pieces. Many children may be missing teeth or have braces, making larger produce (like a whole apple) too difficult to eat. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are often served whole at home and school, causing children to eat less than those sliced into chunks. To this end, evidence that slicing fruits and vegetables can increase consumption by up to 61%!

Ensure fruits and vegetables are not brown, bruised, wilted, or damaged. No one wants to eat rotten food; children seem to be especially offended by non-perfect foods! Make sure you take care of your fruits and veggies and gobble them to ensure they don’t go bad before there put into little hands.

Give fruits and vegetables fun names:  By giving fruits and vegetables fun names, you are almost guaranteed to entice children to eat more of them. In a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, naming foods fun names (i.e., X-Ray Vision Carrots, Power Punch Broccoli, Silly Dilly Green Beans) increased vegetable consumption by 66% in one and 99% in a second study. The most simple, cost-effective, and low-effort way to add pizzazz to eating fruits and vegetables.

Lead by example:  Monkey see, monkey do! If your child sees you eating carrots at dinner or snacking on a banana after lunch, they are more likely to do the same. You need your 5-a-day, too, so ensure you get it and your kids know it!

Ask for help in the kitchen:  Kids are likelier to try something they helped make, so get your kids in the kitchen. Ask for help creating a green bean casserole or a broccoli salad. If they see how and what goes into it, they will be more likely to eat it.

Grab-and-Go:  A bag of chips or a sleeve of cookies is an easy and delicious snack for kids (or you) to grab and munch. But fruits and vegetables can be the same way! Pre-chop and pre-portion fruits and vegetables in baggies and store them in easy-to-reach places for children. That will help kids make good choices when they want to mindlessly munch in front of the TV or grab a snack before going to a friend’s house.

Dip it and Dunk it:  Kids love dips! Dips can be super easy, inexpensive, and a great way to jazz up snacks. Easy dips include peanut butter, hummus, guacamole, low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt, and low-fat or fat-free ranch. You can find healthy dip recipes by going to usda.gov/whatscooking and searching for “dips.”

 Kid-Friendly Sweet Potato Muffins

(Servings: 12  Serving Size: 1 muffin)

4 Tablespoons margarine
½ cup sugar
⅔ cup mashed sweet potatoes*
1 egg*
¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup milk*
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup raisins

  1. Wash hands and cooking area.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream, margarine, and sugar.
  3. Add egg and sweet potatoes; mix well.
  4. In the large bowl, stir flour with baking powder, salt, and spices.
  5. Alternate adding milk and the potato mixture to the large bowl with your dry ingredients.
  6. Fold in nuts and raisins.
  7. Spoon into greased 1½-inch muffin tins, filling each ⅔ full for 25 minutes of baking.
  8. Bake at 400 °F for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving

Nutritional Information:  131 calories; 20 grams carbs; 5 grams fat; 2 grams protein; 13 grams sugar; 489 milligrams sodium

Sources

  1. Hakim, Sharon M., and Gregory Meissen. “Increasing Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables in the School Cafeteria: The Influence of Active Choice.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 24.2A (2013): 145-57. Web.
  2. Ladzinski, Joanna, and Brooke Pearson. “Food and Brand Lab.” Slice That Fruit! Cornell University, n.d. Web. 10 June 2016.
  3. Orsi, Nathan, and Joanna Ladzinski. “Food and Brand Lab.” What’s in a Name? Cornell University, n.d. Web. 10 June 2016.
  4. Haraminac, Eileen. “10 Tips Help Kids Get More Fruits and Vegetables.” Michigan State University Extension. Michigan State University, 06 May 2015. Web.
  5. “Sweet Potato Muffins.” Family & Consumer Sciences “Connections” in Nolan County 2 (Oct. 2015): 4. Print.

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