Struggling to get your preschooler to eat fruits and veggies?

As a dietitian and mom, friends will often ask me how to get their preschool-aged child to eat fruits and vegetables.  The question always brings back memories of being a kid and sitting at the dinner table long after everyone was done with a plate of peas in front of me.  My parents wouldn’t let me leave the dinner table until I ate my vegetables.  I’m sure it was exhausting for my parents to struggle with me.  All I can remember is becoming even more determined not to eat my vegetables.

The good news is that the techniques of yesteryear aren’t particularly effective.  But what techniques are effective?

That’s the question a study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association sought to answer.  The researchers asked 889 health professionals and registered dietitians from six different countries to share their opinion on the effectiveness of specific parenting practices in promoting fruit and vegetable intake.  The overall finding is a relief for many parents.  Instead of trying to control your child, focus on controlling the ENVIRONMENT in which your child eats.

How do you control the environment?  Here are five specific things you can do that the experts deemed as the MOST effective at increasing fruit and vegetable intake in preschool-aged children:

1.  Eat together as a family.

2.  Include some form of fruit or vegetable in most meals.

3.  Show your child that you enjoy eating fruit and vegetables.

4.  Use fruit or vegetables for your child’s snacks.

5.  Buy fruit or vegetables instead of cookies, chips and candy.

You’ll probably need to think through specific ways you can make each of the above work for your family.  One of my friends can’t make family dinners work, so they always eat breakfast together before going to school and work.  For me, including fruits and vegetables in most meals is a lot easier if I prepare enough ahead of time for several meals.  I also keep canned fruit on hand for times when I don’t have time to cut up fresh fruit.

fruit     vegetable

Curious about the five parenting practices the experts deemed the LEAST effective at increasing fruit and vegetable intake?

1.  Physically struggle with your child to get them to eat fruit or vegetables.

2.  Yell at your child for not eating their fruit and/or vegetable.

3.  Make your child feel guilty when they don’t eat fruits and vegetables.

4.  Reward your child with sweets if they eat their fruits and vegetable.

5.  Beg your child to eat fruit and vegetables.

I get drained just reading those practices.  Focusing on the environment sounds a lot easier for us parents and a lot more pleasant for our kids.

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