It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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Dinner Together Building Healthy Families One Meal at a Time.

Food Politics Marion Nestle's intelligent take on the politics of food and nutrition.

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Hoboken Family Alliance A terrific resource for people living in the great city of Hoboken, NJ.

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Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

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« See Your Way Through Your Toddler's Resistance to New Foods | Main | Soul Food for Kids »
Friday
Feb102012

Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack -- Every Darned Day  

One of the most effective strategies you can use to radically shape how your toddler eat is this:

Serve a fruit or a vegetable at every meal and every snack every day.

 Of course, you’ll never attain that goal, but it doesn’t matter.  Just by setting the intention you will drastically increase your toddler’s consumption of fruit and vegs.

You could also strive to serve a fruit AND a vegetable at every meal and every snack every day.

That would be even better.

If you have a child who barely touches a fruit (forget about the vegetables), you’re probably laughing at me right now.

That’s OK. I can take it.  And I’ll get to you guys in a moment. 

For the rest of you, those parents among us whose kids haven’t totally fallen off the deep end yet, think about this: Most parents feed their infants a fruit-and-vegetable-dominated diet.

In other words, I am not really suggesting anything too radical.  I’m merely proposing that as your infants turn into toddlers that you keep up the good work.

Yes, I know that it is a lot easier to feed infants fruits and vegetables than it can be to convince a trepidatious toddler to open up at the sight of spinach, but stick with me here.

One reason infants are so accommodating in the Fruits-and-Vegetable department is that they don’t know any better.

It’s not just that most infants haven’t yet been introduced to all the wonders of the world—sweets, treats and chicken nuggets—that makes them so accommodating.  It’s that eating fruits and vegetables is their custom, their routine, their norm. Fruits and vegetables are their primary go-to-foods.

Most parents I know, inadvertently move their toddlers away from this way of eating by relying on rusks, cookies, puffs, crackers, and other toddler stuff more than they actually need to.

10 reasons to serve fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack every darned day.

1) Kids can’t eat what isn’t being served.  Every time you don’t serve a fruit and vegetable is another time when your child won’t eat a fruit or vegetable.

2) Eating is a matter of math: The more frequently you expose your kids to fruits and vegetables the more normal these foods will seem.

3) Putting fruits and vegetables into your feeding structure stops most of the conflict: When it comes to eating everyone will know exactly what to expect.

4) Fruits and vegetables will displace some of the other snack stuff you normally serve thereby upgrading your toddler’s diet.

5) By changing the ratio of fruits and vegetables to other tasty items you’ll point your kid’s taste buds in the right direction.

6) Fruits and vegetables will become a go-to food, not an once-a-day opportunity to fight.

7) You’ll introduce more fruit and vegetable variety because peas, broccoli and string beans will only take you so far.

8) You’ll be content to serve smaller portions: A few bites really add up.

9) Your previously sane self will return becuase you will no longer have to be the food police.

10) It’s the right habit.

Read 10 Ways Improving Your Kids’ Snacking Will Improve YOUR Life.

To you naysayers out there—“That will never work with my kid.”—I say this:

Do it anyway.  (Waiting for your children to grow into eating more fruits and vegetables is like waiting for Godot. It might never happen.)

Here's a four-point plan to get you started.

1) Set your sights on small steps. 

2) Talk to your children about your strategy.

  • Say “Fruit and/or vegetable at every meal” more times than you would like to, and remember to tell your child why. ("We eat healthier foods more often than other foods.")
  • Give your child choices within the structure. Read Curbing Your Kid’s Craving for Control.

3) Applaud small successes.  Each and every one of them.  Each and every time.

4) Read The BIG Fix: What To Do When Feeding Strategies Fail.

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

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Reader Comments (9)

Thank you for the reminder. Now that my daughter is two I am slightly falling off this bandwagon. Time to start talking to her about it, and to remind myself with a list of easy snack fruits/veggies.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChenoameg

I'm really sorry to be saying this, but i cannot believe that there are ppl that do not do this already. I read your blog, and I LOVE it. You put into words everything that I've been doing with my kid and it is incredibly gratifying to see it all written out and justified. No longer do I feel like the crazy mom who's torturing her kids with fruits and veggies. These simple truths should be shouted from rooftops.

Thank you so much for writing this blog.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNat

Amen!

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

Thank you for this post and I hope more parents, teachers and caregivers will adopt this goal!

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Thanks everyone for the kind comments.

Dina

February 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

I have only two words to say to this: Amen and amen!!!!! :D
Thanks Dina!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Nezon

I want to apply every single word. As I m trying to solve the same problem with my kid.
Thanks Dina for all ur suggestions.

April 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNavjot

Hello there and thank you for all of your great tips and suggestions! Hopefully you can shed some more advice for me in this department! My girl is 18 months old and since she was 6 months old I gave her homemade pureed veggies and fruits of ALL kinds! I have always prided myself on how well she would eat her veggies and fruits. We are also a family who models excellent eating habits. My girl cannot even stand sweets and I bake all sweet homemade. Needless to say, when she transitioned to table food which was about a month ago ( she loved her pureed and would reject all else) she has rejected fruits and veggies. I am going crazy here! She merely squishes, picks and throws all fruits and veggies off of her tray. These are foods she has eaten many times before, yet in a different texture. I believe she cannot stand the texture of fruits and veggies. Every meal and snack, I offer at least 3-4 food groups and she will throw fruits and veggies off tray and only eat carbs and cheese. I have to coax her and entertain her and it still becomes a battleground that I dislike. Mealtime isn't enjoyable anymore. Please help! Should I only offer fruits and veggies during snacks and avoid offering other foods so she has to try it? Thanks for any suggestions in advance.
PS: I have tried every suggestion you posted so I am at my wits end and afraid she is not getting proper nutrients. Thanks

September 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBriggy Stum

Hi Briggy,

Thanks for your great questions. It's frustrating to feed children at this age. They ALL go through a stage where they want to be more in control, where they start to reject food. Having said that, you don't just have to wait it out. The first thing you need to do is to stop her from throwing food off her tray. Do this by telling her that throwing means the meal is over. Then follow through. At the same time, keep rotating through the foods you offer -- don't look for the ones she'll eat and then overuse those. Sometimes, like during a snack, only offer fruits and/or veggies and then don't get stressed if she doesn't eat. Remember that the next meal is around the corner!! Finally, don't get too stressed out. A good feeding structure will get you through. If you want, why not schedule a free 30 minute consultation with me and we can strategize together. Sign up is on the homepage.

Dina

September 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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