Most Americans consume anywhere from 30% to 80% of their recommended number of vegetables in a typical day. Only 6.4% of the population achieves their target for vegetable consumption in an average day. Only 8% of children, 7% of adult males, and 5% of adult females achieve their targeted goals.The picture is less favorable for fruit. Two out of 10 individuals don’t consume even 10% of their recommended amount; two thirds don’t even consume 50% of their target. Just 7.6% achieve their fruit target in a typical day. Of note, children are most likely to achieve their recommended amount of fruit: 12% do so compared with only 7% of adult females and 5% of adult males. Keep in mind, however, that the consumption targets are lower for younger children.
Enjoy a variety of vegetables yourself. The most important thing that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers can do for children’s eating is to model healthy habits. If you enjoy eating a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, children will see it as the normal thing to do. There’s no need to make a big deal about your enjoyment, just make vegetables a tasty part of every meal.
Grow a small (or large) vegetable garden. Savvy adults know that the taste of freshly picked vegetables can’t be beat. Kids love to pick and eat almost anything that they have ‘grown themselves.’ Deliciously fresh vegetables can come from a container on the porch, a backyard plot, or your local community garden. Bottom line: If they help you grow it, they will eat it.
Cut vegetables up for meals and snacks. Children usually prefer the taste and texture of raw vegetables over cooked ones. Make a small plate of bite-sized veggies (broccoli trees, baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers slices, sweet pepper pieces, or sugar snap pea pods) a standard offering at every meal. Add some low fat Ranch dip and kids will naturally get into a crunchy, healthy habit.
Serve bright, colorful vegetables. Everyone eats with their eyes first. When vegetables are bright and colorful, they are naturally more appealing to children and adults alike. Overcooked, mushy veggies are likely to turn everyone off. When cooking vegetables, keep them brightly colored (and crunchy in texture) by steaming or microwaving for just a few minutes.
Be adventurous with vegetables. When children see veggies as tasty and fun, they are much more likely to enjoy eating them. Buying new items, trying new recipes, and playing games are easy ways to make nutrition fun for children. Need ideas for making vegetables more adventurous in your kitchen? Visit www.foodchamps.org/ for recipes, games, coloring sheets, and more!