by Marygrace Taylor
Hooray! Spring is here, and fresh, vibrant produce is finally cropping up in the garden and at the farmer’s market. If you’re like me, you’ve spent months waiting for a taste of peas, asparagus, or anything other than dreary winter root vegetables. And while I’m willing to bet your kids don’t feel the same way (for now!), changing their minds about fresh produce isn’t an impossible feat. Here, my four favorite—and foolproof—ways to get kids excited about their fruits and vegetables.
Get them involved
Your kid’ll be way more enthusiastic about that bunch of broccoli if he gets to pick it out and cook it himself. Whether you’re harvesting from the garden or shopping the farmer’s market, you can make gathering produce more fun by turning it into a scavenger hunt. Have your child seek out fruits and veggies in certain colors or sizes, like long green sticks (asparagus) or little blue spheres (blueberries). Afterwards, leaf through a kid-friendly cookbook with your little one to find a yummy-looking recipe that he can help you make.
Point out the benefits—but make them exciting!
Tell a little kid that carrots are good for her because they contain eye health-promoting beta carotene, and her eyes will likely glaze over. Tell her carrots are good for her because they can help her have Super Vision, and there’s a nice chance she’ll start choosing the orange veggie over other, less healthful snacks that don’t have any magic powers.
Make it look fun
It’s no surprise that a platter of steamed kale probably won’t get your child excited, but kid food doesn’t have to be all macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. Cut veggie sandwiches into interesting shapes, arrange salad vegetables in rainbow order on the plate instead of tossing everything together, or arrange your pizza toppings in the shape of a smiley face. You could even turn a pile of grapes and cheese into a campfire, veggie spring rolls into a caterpillar, or a chocolate-covered pear into a cute little penguin!
Serve healthy food when they’re hungry
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? A small plate of whole grain crackers and a cheese stick is a healthy snack choice—but if eaten an hour before dinner, it’ll wipe out your kid’s appetite for veggies (or anything else!) at dinner. When your child asks for a snack, offer fresh fruit or vegetables like sliced apple with almond butter or celery sticks with hummus. If she’s not interested, she probably isn’t all that hungry, and can wait until her next meal to eat. By then, she will be hungry—and more willing to gobble up the side of sautéed zucchini on her plate.
Marygrace Taylor is the staff writer and recipe developer for KIWI Magazine. She lives and cooks in Austin, Texas, with her husband and dog, Charlie.