Raising Healthy Eaters

I cannot count how many times I have heard, “My kids do not like to eat fruits and vegetables! They are so picky! How can I fix this?!” So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a newly published study that looked at fruit and vegetable intake and neophobia (fear of new foods). The researchers found two conclusions that may help answer the question: “How can I fix this?!”

First they found “…lower child food neophobia was significantly related to enjoyment of tactile play…”. In translation, allowing kids to get messy and explore foods with their hands and face can lead to an increase in the likelihood they will try new foods. Many parents feel anxious over the mess this will cause, but it is important to allow kids the opportunity to familiarize themselves with new foods. In addition, it can take up to 15-20 attempts (!) with a particularly picky eater before they will accept the food. Persistence and “messiness” seem to be key!

The second finding was “…child F/V* consumption was associated with parental F/V consumption…” . Translation? If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables you and your spouse need to eat fruits and vegetables! Kids learn by example and love to copy their favorite role models (you!). The more fruits and vegetables you incorporate into your diet and eat in front of them, the more likely they are to increase their intakes. Exactly how many fruits and vegetables should kids eat every day? The recommendation ranges from 1-2 cups of fruits/day and 1-3 cups of vegetables/day (depending on age).

The bottom line is that if you want your kids to eat new foods, you need to be persistent and ready for a mess! If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables or increase their consumption, you need to be willing to do the same!

*= F/V = fruits and vegetables

  Age Vegetables Fruits
Children 2-3 years old 1 cup 1 cup
  4-8 years old 1 ½ cup 1 to 1 ½ cups
Girls 9-13 years old 2 cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
Boys 9-13 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 3 cups 2 cups