1. Make good food fun. If parents have learned anything about managing what their kids eat, it’s that “health doesn’t sell.” As a parent, your job is to find ways to make kids have a positive view of the foods you want them to eat more of.
2. Reading lessons. Teach kids their ABC’s using foods you want them to savor. Everyone will enjoy reading (and saying) lines like:
“C is for the carrots that rabbits like to munch…”
“Appreciate the D for date, a desert fruit found in Kuwait…”
Grapes “hang in bunches, that’s their trick to make them easier to pick.”
And learning why “not to eat green peas on the rolling seas;” what “Russians really relish when they’re famished;” and why “Einstein, Newton, Marx and Plato [say] a yam is NOT a sweet potato!”
3. Enlist kids help in the kitchen. Children have more interest in foods that they have a hand in making. Unfortunately, too many kid's kitchen experience is limited to baking cookies and cupcakes. Kid-friendly recipes should be ones they can make with little or no assistance. Even a toddler can participate by using a salad spinner to dry the salad greens.
4. Don’t just eat them. Introduce fruits and vegetables in other ways then eating them. For instance, use lemon juice to make invisible ink or dried herbs for scented greeting cards.
5. Grow a garden. Even in the winter when it’s too cold to have an outdoor garden, kids can watch plants grow. Try planting a sweet potato vine or growing carrot tops.
6. Become a trivia expert. By learning some fun facts about fruits and vegetables, kids can entertain their family and friends with such “facts” as …
The record for the longest single unbroken apple peel (155 feet)
The world’s tallest herb plant (the banana)
What vegetable can grow to 3 feet long and weigh 100 pounds (radish)
7. Read about fruits and vegetables. There are lots of fanciful children’s books about fruits and vegetables. You will find many at the Golden Notebook and the Woodstock library.
8. Use the internet. There are wonderful websites that can make fruits and vegetables more interesting to kids, including http://www.bananamuseum.com/, http://www.thepotatomuseum.com/, http://www.freshforkids.com/, www.watermelon.org/kids.asp, and more.
9. Let kids choose. Let kids help pick out fruits and vegetables at the market. Make shopping an adventure as they discover different varieties of familiar foods (baby bananas, all different kinds of apples, striped tomatoes) and some more exotic offerings such as jicama,.kiwi, mangoes, and Ugli fruit.
10. Don’t make a big deal. Research shows that a minimum of three exposures may be needed before kids become comfortable with new foods. Whether through projects, cooking, books, jokes, poems or seeing them on the plate, show patience. As noted earlier, “eat them, they’re good for you,” will never cut it.
There are 43 kid-friendly recipes in The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond. A couple of good ones to try out on your family follow. Be sure to let the kids help.