Parents know that the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables are enormous. Not only do they provide healthy fuel and help our bodies fight off illness, but locally-grown produce is better for the planet too. Because in-season food is only trucked a short distance, it uses less energy and causes less pollution than food shipped from another climate. Fresh produce also creates less plastic packaging pollution than processed foods.
However, it can be tough to convince children to eat a variety of fruits and veggies! Here are a few tips to help your family build healthier eating habits:
Get your child excited about produce before it hits their plate.
The more familiar a child is with a fruit or vegetable, the more likely they are to try it.
- Visit your local farmer’s market or farm stand. It’s a great way to learn where food comes from and what foods are in season. Because the produce is usually picked the day before, and driven only a short distance, it is very fresh. This means the texture and flavor will be extra delicious, so your child might be more likely to enjoy it.
- Plant a few veggies in your yard or in containers. Kids are more willing to try food if they helped grow it. If you don’t know much about gardening, don’t worry! Contact your local Extension Service Office, as they offer a ton of free info and classes about what grows best in your region.
- Try an eco-educational game! Check out Eating in Season, for ages 2+. In this original STEM matching game, kids learn that healthy, fresh food is good for their body and the planet. Sturdy cards feature adorable fruits and veggies, with colorful backgrounds that show which season is best for eating each food.
Have fun with food!
- Get silly! When you include fruit and veggies in a meal, make a game of naming the colors or guessing the ingredients. Kids will giggle if grownups guess crazy combinations! “Is that pickle and peach succotash?”
- Jazz them up! Use cookie cutters to cut fruit and vegetables into fun shapes. This can be even more special if you do it as part of a family picnic, or to deliver a plate to a neighbor who is sick. Kids love to help, and it’s great for them to see other people appreciating fresh food. If they don’t believe Dad when he says that watermelon is yummy, they might believe their favorite auntie!
- Have fun with play food! If your child has a play kitchen, stock it with produce. Independent toy shops, craft fairs, and Etsy often have beautiful, biodegradable play food made of cotton or wood.
Try to find out why your child doesn’t like certain foods. Is it the taste, the texture, the color, or the temperature? This will help you find ways to help them.
- Change the flavors! A child’s tastebuds are more sensitive than an adult’s, which is why the bitter taste of some vegetables can be too strong for them. So, if they don’t like a salad, try blending greens into tasty tomato sauce. Instead of boiling or sautéing root veggies, try roasting for a sweeter caramelized flavor.
- Use your freezer! Homemade smoothies, popsicles, and banana “ice cream” are delicious ways to get more fruit into their diet. Some children don’t like the inconsistency of fruit – one blueberry may be sweet and soft, and the next is tart and hard. So, blending them together into a treat can solve that problem.
- Find a good hiding spot! You can sneak fruits or veggies in your child’s favorite meals. Use cauliflower as “rice,” or add veggies to mini-muffins for a good snack. It’s not the only solution, but it helps give the added nutrition during picky stages.
- Be persistent! Research shows that a young child may need to experience a new food up to 15 times before they like it. Even licking it or eating a pea-size amount counts as an experience. So just keep introducing healthy food, and you’ll see some success!
Adventerra combines the words “adventure” and “terra,” the Latin name for our planet. It reflects our mission: to create exciting games that help kids care for our world! Check out our other educational eco games, and follow this blog for more parenting tips!