Let Them Eat Veggies!



When I was little, I didn't really eat fruits and vegetables unless I was under duress. I do remember eating lima beans and green beans and even broccoli. Maybe an apple every now and then. But I hated berries and oranges and generally avoided fruits. I preferred chocolate.

Not that my parents let me eat junk! I remember having my first bowl of Count Chocula as an adult, something I'd dreamed about for all of my childhood. Sugary cereals were banned. We had meals around the table--good, homemade, wholesome meals. But I would definitely avoid fruits and veggies whenever possible.

I didn't realize until college or after just how many fruits and vegetables I actually love. My boys?  A little wilder for the good stuff. 

Of course there are things they don't eat, but I am amazed by the amount of fruits and veggies they consume. The other day when they asked for snacks, I gave them 1/4 of a watermelon to split, two clementine oranges and a whole orange. Plus blueberries and strawberries. They ate it all. In fact, I had to give extra oranges. Insanity! One of Sawyer's favorite foods: mushrooms.
I'm not sure there are any tricks to getting kids to eat more veggies. Sure, you can sneak spinach or other things into smoothies or spaghetti sauce (I sometimes do both, but don't keep it a secret), but in general, sometimes kids just don't like things. 
Here are a few tips that I found with our boys. I didn't set out to do these things, but I was so surprised by their adventurous eating that I took some time to think about what may have helped encourage them. Maybe these will help around your house too!
Avoid fake fruit stuff. I know somewhere Rob is laughing, because he definitely thinks I let our kids have too many sweets. (And maybe I do.) But generally, we keep the processed foods and the "fruit" things to a minimum. (Other than those nutri-grain cereal bars, which my kids love.) I think that tasting the fake fruit stuff can ruin the taste of REAL fruit. We avoid juice for the same reason. Most juice is just sugar, and the good stuff is so expensive that we can't really handle it in our budget. Let them get used to real fruit so that the fake things taste just that: fake. 
Start them early. I made our own baby food (which is not a must, but definitely easy if you haven't tried it) and we explored with all kinds of fruits and veggies.As soon as they moved to finger foods, we gave the boys lots of berries and avocados and sweet potato chunks. I often packed these kinds of things in their lunches as well when they started going to mother's day out. I think that it's normal to give kids these sorts of things when they are really little (most baby food is fruits and veggies, right?) but then somewhere along the line we move to processed stuff and other foods. Start with the good stuff and stick with it!
Don't set up low expectations. How many times have you said (or heard someone say), "You can't get up until you finish all your green beans?" I do think there is a time and a place for having kids try or eat some designated quantity of foods, but as they are developing their tastes and learning their likes and dislikes, don't unintentionally give your child the expectation that he or she will not WANT to finish their veggies. I realized sometime recently that we almost never did that with our boys. I would simply give them a plate of food and then we ate. Yes, they both have certain likes and dislikes that come naturally: Linc loves peas but hates green beans, while Saw is the exact opposite. But I think sometimes parents without meaning to give veggies and fruits a bad name by setting kids up to think it's something they HAVE to eat, which makes it seem undesirable, or makes them think they won't like it.
Be adventurous. In the produce department recently, Sawyer wanted to know what radishes were and how they tasted. So we bought radishes and tried them at home. Neither of the boys really liked them very much, but I discovered that I love them! You may find things they hate, but be just as surprised with things they love. I still don't like blackberries (the crunchy seeds get me) but my kids will eat a whole carton while we are grocery shopping (and yes, I do pay for it). Same with raspberries. I taught them to put the raspberries on their fingers like thimbles and so even the eating becomes a fun game.
Use a little dip. Those ranch commercials have it right: a little ranch goes a long way with veggies. My boys will dip almost any veggie in hummus or ranch. Raw peppers, carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini. Sawyer even said once about zucchini, "Mom, I like this better cooked." He still ate it, but I was really impressed that he knew he had a preference. Find a healthy dip (greek yogurt can make some great, healthy dips!) and see what your kids might be willing to try. 
Don't overload or overkill. My boys want variety. Lincoln may eat six bananas one week, but the next week or two, he won't touch them. I have found that if I want my kids to keep eating heartily, I have to mix it up. Now that we are using the Rawfully Organic boxes of veggies, we are eating more in season, which doesn't always allow for that option. But I can supplement with the grocery store sales, and I also try to make sure I'm not giving the boys the same fruit for like three or four days running. Variety plays a huge part in keeping their taste buds excited.
I'm so thankful that our boys (unlike me) really do like eating lots of fruits and veggies--even salad. I wish I had realized how many foods I really did like as a kid rather than thinking I hated everything. You can't always change a picky eater, but there may yet be hope!

Do you struggle to get veggies into your kids? Or do you have tips of your own to share? Any way we can get more of these great foods into our kids, the better! I hope that they don't just eat them now, but grow up with an appreciation for the taste of REAL foods.




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