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3 Clever ways to help picky eaters eat more fruits and veggies



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/19/23

Family dinners, veggie appetizers, and a chef priest's message! Here are a few smart strategies to encourage veggie intake for picky eaters.

Like most parents, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with picky eaters over the years. So my ears perked up when I saw some recent research about the effect of family dinners on kids’ nutrition. 

An extra 10 minutes at dinner may help kids eat more healthy foods, reads a Washington Post article. 

“We need to consider new ways to extend family meals such that everyone enjoys it, and then nibbles their extra fruits and veggies during the extra time,” said one study co-author. 

Another scientist said, “This study helps counter the myth that children don’t like fruits and vegetables. Kids are perfectly happy to eat fruits and vegetables.”

All this got me thinking about what I’ve learned over the years about picky eaters and the importance of family dinner. Here are a few tips if you’ve got a picky eater at home!

1Consider your child’s age

If your child is between ages 2 and 7, some degree of picky eating is not only normal but should be expected. These ages are the peak of neophobia, that is, fear of new foods. 

All of my kids have gone through a picky stage during those years. One of my kids subsisted entirely on applesauce and brioche buns for a month! I was very worried at the time, but now, several years later, she is a very adventurous eater who loves fruits and vegetables.

So if your child is under 7, don’t take their picky eating to heart. Just keep offering a variety of foods and know that they will outgrow their neophobia.

2Enjoy dinner together as a family

Family dinners are so important, and eating more fruits and veggies is just one reason!

In a way, the study affirms what Monsignor Jamie has been saying all along. Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, host of the Breaking Bread cooking show and author of Breaking Bread with Monsignor Jamie, always encourages families to have dinner together. 

This research shows that family dinner helps our physical health as well as emotional and spiritual!

This study also put me in mind of the Spanish concept of sobremesa, which means lingering at the table to talk for a while after a meal. It’s a beautiful way to enjoy time with friends and family, and apparently it’s the secret to getting kids to eat more plants! 

Definitely try adding some sobremesa to your meals this summer. Not only will it increase veggie intake, but it’s just fun and makes an everyday meal feel really special.

3Try the veggie appetizer trick

My sister gave me this tip, and it’s such a winner. Put out a plate of sliced raw veggies (carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers) before you start making dinner, maybe with some dip on the side.

Kids are getting pretty hungry by dinner time, so they’ll usually eat at least a few of the veggies. This means you don’t need to worry about whether they’re eating as many veggies at dinner time, knowing they already scarfed some down earlier in the day. 

Plus eating vegetables before other foods can prevent blood sugar spikes. So it’s a healthy win all around.

These are my best tips for managing picky eating in little kids. I’d love to hear yours, too!

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