The obesity epidemic is growing throughout the world as more and more ‘processed’ food becomes available. Here in North America the problem is compounded by the lack of exercise. As a former dietetic assistant and parent I know it is difficult to get children to avoid unhealthy food and lifestyle choices. If getting your student to eat their fruits and vegetables is a problem, then you’re not alone. If you want to avoid those long battles at the dinner table, then there are some fun and innovative ways to get your child to love their greens. Fruits and vegetables are essential for providing vitamins and minerals. When children learn good eating habits, they will be healthier and happier. This generally leads to better social and academic performance.
Instead of serving cooked vegetable or ready-made salads, cut up raw ingredients and let your students make their own combinations. Very often, just giving them a choice is enough to convince them to try something healthier. You can also get them to make pictures from their salad bar choices by arranging ingredients on the plate.
Nothing works better than getting your children to prepare their own dishes. When they have been part of the process, they are more likely to eat the finished product. You can get them to go shopping with you and select the veggies they like best. Get them to wash and dry the veggies. Older children can cut and prepare veggies or make soups and pasta dishes. Involvement now will help make them a better parent.
The ‘One Bite’ Rule
Remember how you hated mushrooms or olives as a kid, but loved them as an adult? Most kids are resistant to new foods or new flavors. When your kids don’t like a fruit or vegetable, employ the ‘one bite’ rule to slowly get them used to the flavor and texture. Don’t force them to finish large portions, ask only for one bite. Studies show that student can take up to eight attempts at a new dish before they are willing to add it to their ‘like’ list.
Studies show that tangible rewards encourage children to eat more vegetables and fruit. children who were offered a reward (in this case a sticker) ate twice as much as children who were offered no reward. Children who received praise for eating veggies also ate more than a control group who weren’t offered any praise or rewards.
Creative reinvention is a great way to add pizazz to dishes your children don’t like. My brother hated carrots and I refused cauliflower, but when my mother mashed the two together to make an orange mash she called power paste, we were both hooked. Change the way you prepare vegetables that your students don’t like, add a snazzy new name and voila! They will be inquisitive enough to give it a go.
Lead By Example
Eat well yourself and mention often how much you love your fruits and vegetables. Create a happy family atmosphere at the dinner table rather than a sombre, anxious setting. Be enthusiastic about the meal you have prepared and give your students the choice. Simply asking them what veggies and fruit they want may be the best way to provide meals that they will enjoy. Don’t force them to finish; instead let them leave the table and have some water. Offer them a half portion of their meal later on if they are hungry.