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How to Get Kids to Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

A new study found that youngsters who eat with their parents take in 1.6 more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids from families that don’t dine together.The secret may be serving fruits and vegetables at dinner and actually sitting down for a family meal. A new study from England’s University of Leeds found that youngsters who eat with their parents take in 1.6 more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids from families that don’t dine together. Another helpful strategy: cutting up fruits and veggies for your kids and making sure that they see you eating fruits and vegetables, too, the researchers reported online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The goal is for everyone – kids and parents – to eat five 80-gram servings of fruits and vegetables daily as recommended by the World Health Organization. The study included 2,383 London primary school children (mean age 8.3 years). The investigators reported that on average, the kids and their parents ate 293 grams of fruits and vegetables daily (3.7 servings); only 37 percent of the kids took in the recommended five servings per day. Children whose parents ate fruits and vegetables daily consumed 88 grams (just over 3 ounces) more of these foods than those whose parents rarely or never ate fruits and vegetables.

My take? If you want your kids to develop healthy eating habits, you have to make healthy foods available and show them how it’s done. If your children are resistant to the idea of fruits and vegetables, you might try introducing them to fruits by making them smoothies, which are usually very well received. My book, The Healthy Kitchen, which I wrote with Rosie Daley, contains several smoothie recipes, as well as instructions for preparing delicious soups that incorporate lots of vegetables. Perhaps the most important point of the study, however, is simply to lead by example.

Christian M, et al "Family meals can help children reach their 5 a day: a cross-sectional survey of children's dietary intake from London primary schools" J Epidemiol Community Health 2012; DOI: 10.1136/jech-2012-201604.

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Reader Comments (8)

How important to have kids (and adults) eat fruits and vegetables. I am a RD living in France with my 4 kids. I found a great way to have kids eat vegetables. Do it like the Frenchys with their three course non formal meals: serve it to them first! Here is the article I wrote that explains it better:

Warmly, Mary

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary Brighton

Great tactic for encouraging the kiddos to eat their fruits and veggies!

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJane Cibran

Wow Mary,
A wonderful blog entry - elegantly written, informative, lovely photos, great ideas/recipes, and so applicable; and it's FRENCH (what's not to like!). I will share this with 3 pediactric RDs I know (I am sure they will really appreciate it and find it quite useful for their patients and families). Bon appetit!

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermorecarrotsplz

Enjoyed your post, definitely can be tricky to get your kids to eat fruits and veggies. We offer our 3 year old daughter a snack that is either a fruit or a veggie. We found that she likes to make the decision so it's "her idea". We'll say "do you want an apple or carrot sticks?". We've also pushed fruit smoothies as "treats" and what kid doesn't want a "treat"?

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Excellent point with the "smoothies" idea, ours loves kale in with chocolate soy milk, says it tastes like chocolate ice cream!
Now there's a bonus eh.

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManny"the health nut"

I teach a Human Growth and Development course and another great tip is to give the kids choices as to what vegetables they want to eat. If they feel forced into something they'll likely hate it on principle, but letting them choose green beans or broccoli (for example) should result in a much better experience!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica House

To morecarrotsplz : merci!!! thanks for your kind words. Kids eat when they sit down at a table hungry and ready to eat good food....

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary Brighton

I think prep techniques also come into play, considering how most fruits and vegetables are sold and dispensed nowadays. Typically not in natural form, or overstewed to death. I hated spinach as a child. My mother bought the frozen stuff and prepared stove top. Now I love spinach, but fresh and slightly wilted or just raw. I still hate the frozen stuff, though I loved dark greens as a child. The same with broccoli and Brussels Sprouts. They were always frozen or canned or stewed beyond recognition. Fresh and prepared the right way with a little EVOO, maybe salt and pepper works every time. Canned string beans and frozen cauliflower are just dreadful. I felt it as a child and still do. Gimme fresh and well prepped lightly seasoned any day. The only way to eat veggies.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJackson

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