Preventing Diabetes: Getting Our Kids To Eat More Veggies

A primary preventive for chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease is eating a healthy diet full of fresh whole fruits and vegetables.

According to a recent study published in the journal Circulation, the servings of fruits and veggies our children eat today can affect their heart health 20 years down the road.

So, how do we get kids who seem to have a natural aversion for vegetables and other foods acquire good gastronomic habits? As usual, what we do is more influential than what we say.

Here are a six things parents, and grandparents can do or avoid that help children learn how to eat well.

  1. Seeing parents take pleasure in eating vegetables powerfully influences children to become veggie eaters. Serve vegetables in flavorful ways that you (the parents or grandparents) enjoy to make a favorable veggies-are-good impression on the kids.
  2. Keeping a bowl of fruit on the counter or in the fridge makes it easy for children to grab an apple or banana for a snack. Have some vegetables cut up and ready for grabbing as well. Even if your children don’t take the bait, the crisp raw veggies will be available for your healthy snacking pleasure.
  3. Though your children may resist trying new items, continue to serve a wide variety of foods. Children sometimes need to see, smell, and then taste a vegetable repeatedly before they begin to enjoy eating it. If a child is trying a new food, very small portions work best—facing a piece of broccoli is easier than a pile of it.
  4. Incorporate vegetables into mixed dishes. For instance, add extra pureed, chopped, or shredded veggies into mixed pasta recipes, soups, or stews. This is also a good way to help veggie-reluctant adults get more of the plant nutrients they need.
  5. Encouragement may help some children try new foods, especially prior to puberty, but using pressure, or rewards usually backfires. Forcing or rewarding the eating of vegetables usually sends the message that veggies are not pleasurable to consume.
  6. Limit the availability of sugary snacks and provide munching alternatives such as fruit, cubes of cheese, pretzels, trail mix, or peanut butter with crackers. Our sweet tooth shrinks when it is not fed.

Many preschool children dislike or fear trying new foods, veggies particularly, and this sometimes continues for several years. To help kids outgrow this fear, parents should continue to serve a variety of foods they enjoy and let their food pleasure rub-off on the children.

Source: Diabetic Gourmet; Mercola
Photo credit: Ari Helminen

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