All parents know that a healthy diet for their children must include a variety of vitamins and minerals which are abundant in fruits and vegetables. However, unfortunately, it is estimated that around 50 percent of the children at the ages of 2 – 6 do not eat enough of them or don’t eat them at all and, therefore, their body doesn’t get all the nutrients it needs.
Why Some Children Don’t Eat Fruits and Vegetable?
There are numerous reasons for children’s refusal to eat healthy fruits or vegetables. Some children can’t stand the sweet-sour taste of fruits and naturally prefer the taste of snacks and fast food with high percentage of fat and sugar.
It is believed that our innate preference for high-fat and sugary foods stems from the dictates of evolution. Fatty food means available energy which is vital for survival in harsh and wild environments where food is scarce. Sweet food means no poison and it is, therefore, good for eating.
Another reason, many children do not get personal example from their parents who also prefer processed, fast and sweet foods. As a result, these children are not exposed from an early age to the variety of flavors found in different fruits and vegetable. The earlier a child is exposed to these flavors, the easier it will be to make her get used to them and like them.
How to encourage children to eat properly
As mentioned above, rule no. 1 is to set an example. You can’t expect your child to eat healthily if she sees you eating junk food all the time.
Never force your child to eat things she does not want. You will achieve the opposite result after constantly fighting with her. Instead, try to encourage her to taste new things.
Keep washed fruits and vegetables always at reach during meals and in between them. Give preference to sweet fruits children tend to like, such as mango, fresh cherries and strawberries. True, they are rich in sugar, but they are far better than candies thanks to their high nutritious value.
Another way to encourage children to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits is to enable them to take active part in the preparation process of healthy foods, such as a fruit salad or a vegetable soup.
Additional tips to help you include fruits and vegetable in your child’s daily menu
✔ Prepare a tasty shake from 2-3 fruits every day based on water or milk without or with very little sugar/honey.
✔ Combine food types that children like less with foods they like. For example a burger bans should come with a sliced tomato and cucumber.
✔ Always make new types of foods. This will expose your child to new flavors
✔ Do not bribe, threaten or negotiate to make your child eat. It often results in the opposite effect.
✔ The way food is served can definitely make a difference. Fruits and vegetables which are cut in interesting shapes and appear in many colors can encourage eating. For your information, eating multiple colored vegetables and fruits has tremendous nutritional benefits in terms of the variety of vitamins and minerals your child will get.
✔ Be creative. Your child may not like fruits and vegetable in their basic form, but she may be willing to eat fruit salad seasoned with orange and lemon juice, sweet carrot salad and sliced fruits seasoned with vanilla or cinnamon (Don’t exaggerate regarding sweet additives as they are rich in empty calories). You can also offer your child tasty vegetables spreads, such as pesto and a tomato paste.
Article was contributed by Dian Ivanov, a clinical nutritionist and a mother to 3 children from Springfield, Illinois