5 Ways for Your Family to Eat More Vegetables Together

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Editor's note: This is a guest blog by Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Did you know that your health habits can influence your child’s eating habits and even increase their risk of obesity? For example, if you skip breakfast you may be teaching your child that same habit. Skipping breakfast has been linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome in adults.

Many studies have found an association between family routines and a decreased risk of obesity. If you have an "anything goes" attitude when it comes to dinner time, you might be creating an environment that is detrimental to healthy eating. Also something to note: Eating as a family unit has been linked with increased fruit and vegetable consumption and lower soft drink consumption.

For those of you who, despite your best efforts, have trouble getting the kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, here are some tips to make it easier:

1. Get your kids involved.

Kids who shop and cook with their parents, and therefore have more ownership in food preparation, are more likely to be healthier eaters. Let them pick a vegetable for a meal or try a fruit they find interesting.

2. Offer veggies along with favorite foods.

Try macaroni and cheese with broccoli or pizza with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini or other veggies added. Experiment with themes like taco night and salad night that offer plenty of healthy choices.

3. Play with your food.

Making faces with cut-up veggies may help get them from plate to mouth. Calling broccoli "trees" or cauliflower "brains" can make them much less intimidating. Making food mini-sized also can make it more kid-friendly. Try these ideas for making fun food faces:

  • Eyes and nose: peas, olives, beans, cherries, raisins or nuts
  • Mouth: orange or apple slices, carrots or strawberries
  • Hair: broccoli, cauliflower, or grapes
  • Glue: honey, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter

4. Don’t make the dinner table a battleground.

If kids don’t want to try a new veggie, avoid the temptation to react, which can create emotional drama. Kids’ tastes change as they get older, so don’t give up!

5. Set a good example.

It's hard to convince a child to eat Brussels sprouts if you won't go near them. Be a salesman by eating veggies yourself and make sure your child is watching.

Some children will be more difficult than others, and will require more effort and patience. It’s important to realize, however, that the habits they develop at a young age will remain with them long into adulthood.

Set a good example, create fun, positive experiences around food and do anything else you can to keep exposing them, in a pleasant way, to healthy foods. Your persistence will pay off.

Andrea Groth is a Senior Wellness Consultant for Kaiser Permanente Colorado with 18 years of experience in her field.

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