Increasing a child’s exposure to a new food increases the likelihood the child will consume it and become healthier in the process, according to MaryBeth Hornbeck, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Rockdale County.
“You have to eat a vegetable eight to 15 times before you know if you like it or not,” said Hornbeck, who teaches adults and children how to eat healthier as part of her job as a Family and Consumer Sciences agent.
To encourage children between the ages of 2 and 6 to eat produce, Hornbeck says parents should be vigilant and introduce new fruits and vegetables to their children.
“This is the time that kids start to exhibit choices for themselves,” she said. “If parents enjoy eating vegetables, then it will help normalize a vegetable for kids. The more times they see the vegetable at the table or on their plate — even if they don’t eat it — the better.”
To help encourage children to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, Hornbeck suggests making it fun by doing at-home taste tests.
“If you buy it, chances are, they would eat it,” she said of introducing new foods to children. “If they have something in their hand and feel involved, the chances are higher that they will try it.”
She also recommends involving children in the preparation of food. For example, when teaching children about eating green beans, Hornbeck lets them help her snap the fresh beans.
“I try to make it fun for the kids,” she said. “They loved to hear them snap.”
For more information on healthy eating, visit www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/food.