Ways To Get Children To Eat Their Fruit and Vegetables

As a parent, you might look at the government's new nutrition icon and think, "Really?"

The image is a dinner plate divided into sections. Half the plate is full of fruits and vegetables.
That's right -- half of what your child eats is supposed to be fruits and vegetables. Not hot dogs, not hamburgers, not chicken nuggets, but broccoli, squash, Brussels sprouts, and other things that come from the ground.
"It's extremely tough to get your child to eat half a plate of fruits and vegetables," Thousands and thousands of parents, and most of them can't get their kids to try them."

Statistics show kids aren't getting nearly enough fruits and veggies. Only 22% of children ages 2 to 5 meet government recommendations for vegetable consumption, according to a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University.
It only gets worse as children get older: Just 16% of children ages 6 to 11 meet the government's guidelines, and only 11% of those ages 12 to 18.
In a study of more than 6,000 kids and teens, about a third of vegetable consumption was fried potatoes (potato chips, french fries, etc.), and a little more than a third of the fruit consumption was juice -- so if you don't include those, the percentages get even lower.

There's no one way to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies, but here are ten tips straight from moms.
1. Get them while they're hungry.

If they're hungry, they'll eat. Before dinner, serve an appetizer of colorful vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, and red bell peppers, along with a hummus or low-fat salad dressing.

2. Institute the "no thank you bite" rule.

Tell your child he has to take a bite before vetoing something on his plate.
"We figure as long as our son is tasting the food, he'll eventually get comfortable with it, "It works pretty well."

3. Make up cute names.

Marketers do this, so why shouldn't you? Once they started calling Brussels sprouts "hero buttons," her kids couldn't get enough of them.

4. Shop with your kids.

"Let them pick out the fruits and vegetables. "Let them smell the produce and admire the colors."

5. Cook with your kids.

A few years back, Duffy asked Dylan to make the green beans -- add some butter, sprinkle on some seasonings -- while she worked on other dishes.
"When we sat down to eat, Dylan insisted on eating the green beans because, as he put it, 'I made them.'" Two years later, he's still eating his veggies as long as he helps prepare them.
6. Have a "veggie night."

This way, there's no competition from other types of foods.
"Serve up edamame, hummus with veggies, mushroom burgers with Swiss, etc.

7. Hide the veggies.

In Seinfeld's book, she tells parents how to stealthily sneak pureed vegetables into everything from shrimp dumplings to quesadillas.
8. Make fruits and vegetables the easy option.

Take a tip from the geniuses who thought to put potato chips in single-serving bags. Stock a kid-accessible shelf in your fridge with little bags of cut fruit and vegetables, applesauce, and fruit cups.
9. Let them use fun gadgets.

What kid doesn't love gadgets? Let them use a blender, juicer, and food processor to make smoothies and other recipes with fruits and vegetables. Use proper supervision, of course.
10. Bribe with dessert.

"Didn't want to finish what was good for them? No problem -- no dessert. "Maybe not the healthiest way to get them to eat vegetables, but it worked for us."