The beginning of the school year usually means the return of a more regular mealtime schedule for families. This makes it a great time to introduce or reinforce healthy eating habits.
For many parents, convincing kids to try new vegetables is the most difficult aspect of getting them to adopt a healthier diet. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents and specialists have developed an arsenal of tips and tricks to help introduce new vegetables to young people.
Remember that children sometimes need to try a new vegetable about 15 times before they decide that they like it, so persistence is key.
Make a plan to explore new flavors.
Print a list of fruits and veggies, then ask each family member what foods they like, what they want to try and what they’ve never heard of. Use your list to pick a few produce items to buy each week. Consider adding a new fruit or vegetable that they want to try to the meal plan every other week.
Involve kids in the kitchen.
Involve your children in choosing and preparing vegetables. Take your children to the farmers market or grocery store and let them pick a new fruit or vegetable for the family to try that week.
Kids are more willing to taste something new if they helped to pick it out, wash it and prepare it.
Try cutting fruits and vegetables in different shapes. Shred carrots to make carrot confetti or buy a spiralizer to make vegetable “spaghetti” out of squash. Wavy cutters can make crinkle fries or waffle chips. The new shapes may make the same old veggies a little more exciting.
Don’t forget to accessorize.
Embrace dipping sauces. Just like ketchup gives potatoes familiarity, having little cups of hummus, ranch, pesto or even spaghetti sauce can make veggies more appealing.
Play a little game of hide-and-seek.
Incorporate veggie pasta into spaghetti dishes. Some grocery stores sell ready-made veggie “pastas,” but families can also make their own from squash or zucchini using a spiralizer.
Try cauliflower pizza dough and let the children help make the pizza. By helping with the preparation, they will take ownership of the dish and be more likely to try something new.
If all else fails, hide veggies on pizza, in smoothies or favorite foods until kids decide they’d like to try them solo.
For more information on healthy eating, visit www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/food.