Tips to encourage fussy kids to eat veggies

For many parents getting kids to eat their veggies is a daily battle that amounts to tantrums, trickery and truckloads of tolerance.

Bupa dietitian Rosalyn D’Angelo has put together some tips which may help transform a fussy eater into a veggie lover.

1. Lead by example. Eat fruit and vegetables yourself and let your kids see you enjoy them. Children who see the people around them eating fruit and vegetables, as well as all the other food groups as part of a healthy, balanced diet, are more likely to develop healthy eating habits themselves.

2. Remove distractions from the dinner table.
Turn off the TV and put away tablets. Let your little ones focus all their attention on eating and trying new foods.

3. Keep trying.
There is a lot for children to learn about food tastes, textures and sensations. Children’s tastes are likely to change from day to day and week to week as they get more experienced with food. Just because they rejected something last week, doesn’t mean they won’t try it this week. Some sources say children need up to 15 exposures to a food just to trust it enough to try it. Exposing children to vegetables from an early age (picture books and being involved in the grocery shopping) may increase your child’s likelihood of trying new foods. 


Kid eating veggies body

4. Make food fun. We eat with all our senses, so presenting food in an appealing way can increase the likelihood of it being eaten. Cook or cut veggies in different ways (batons, circles, diced, faces, shapes) and even give food creative names. “Superhero” rice is a good way of explaining how vegetables can help us grow big and strong, and ants on a log (celery with a little cream cheese and sultanas) makes celery much more fun. Get the kids involved in all elements of food preparation; gardening, shopping, chopping, mixing, combining ingredients etc. to increase your child’s interest in food and nutrition.

5. Share meals as a family. Eating meals as a family at the dinner table can help children develop a healthier relationship with food and healthier eating habits. Sharing eating experiences is an important social interaction too.

6. Pay attention to your language. Choose words like sometimes or every day foods instead of good or bad. The key is to encourage your child to try new foods without pressuring, restricting or forcing them. Instead of “Eat your broccoli for me” or “please eat this because I spent time making it” try and focus on the food and say things like “These carrots are crunchy” or “This orange is sweet and juicy”.

7. Try not to use food to reward or comfort. It can be tempting to offer desert only if they eat their vegetables but it can send the message that vegetables require an incentive to eat.

8. Have a routine for meals and snacks. Just like a regular sleeping routine, a regular eating routine can help children to eat better too. Keeping the kitchen closed between meal and snack times can help reinforce the routine.

Make little moments matter

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