Struggling to convince your children to eat more plant-based foods? You're certainly not the first parent whose kids refuse to eat anything healthy. Time to get creative! We've got 15 mom-approved healthy eating hacks to turn picky eaters in plant-based advocates.
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The World Health Organization recommends five portions of fruits and vegetables per day, for optimum health and vitality, and this is especially important for children who needs all those important vitamins and minerals during their growing years.
If you're thinking five servings per day sounds like a stretch for your kiddos, I've got good news: these fifteen genius mom hacks will have even your picky eaters on the plant-based train.
1. Make Them Fun
Don’t just give your children boring vegetables and fruits; cut them in fun shapes using cookie cutters, build with them, and present them in kabobs. Contrary to what most of us grew up hearing, playing with your food isn't a bad thing (and is often a surefire way to get kiddos actually eating plant-based foods).
2. Use Your Imagination
Using your imagination is essential when dealing with children, and when it comes to healthy eating, let yours roam free. Make up stories for each vegetable or fruit, use funny voices, and make them the stars of snack time. Anything goes!
3. Make Plant-Based Foods Available
If they are on their plate, it will happen; your children will give them a try. Maybe not the first time they make an appearance, but persistence, my friends! Pro tip: anytime you introduce a new fruit or veggie to your kiddo's plate or lunch box, be sure it's alongside one of their favorite foods, too.
4. Don't Push Them
Whatever you do, do not push your little ones to consume fruits and vegetables. Nothing will make them despise healthy food (and potentially have negative associations with eating) than you forcing the issue. Simply put it on their plate (again and again — see #3) and try your best not to interfere.
5. Be a Role Model
Our children look to us — and often copy what we're doing, and this includes our eating habits. If you are snacking on chocolate and ice cream, they're probably not going to be super jazzed about the fruit platter you're offering them.
6. Make a Week Out of It
Assign a fruit and a vegetable for each week and incorporate them into every meal. Research fun plant-based recipes for kids, find pictures to show your kiddos, spend some time as a family drawing the chosen fruits and veggies. Try using the weekly picks in different ways (warm, cold, roasted, steamed).
7. Put Them On Ice
Have you ever tried frozen grapes? Well, they taste like candy. Seriously! They're delicious. So pop a few grapes in the freezer and offer them to your children for their next snack. Make fun out of how the grapes burst with each bite, and ask them what other fruits they would like to try this way.
8. Make Smoothies
If all else fails, two easy ways to get your children eating more fruits and vegetables is to hide them in their food. An excellent example of this is smoothies. They will never imagine that under that creamy yumminess you have hidden a handful of spinach, some beets, and shredded carrots.
9. Get a Little Sneaky
While we're on the topic, there are plenty of creative ways to sneak vegetables into your children’s meals if you've got some stubborn anti-veggies in your house. Hide vegetables in muffins, popsicles, pasta sauces, casseroles, and anything else you’d like.
10. Grow Your Garden Together
Have some room in your garden to spare? Grow some vegetables and fruits with your little ones. Teaching them how to water and tend to their garden can help pique their interest come harvest time — they'll want to taste all their hard work!
11. Shop the Rainbow
A great game I like to play is "Show the Rainbow." Take your children grocery shopping with you and give them a challenge: find three fruits and vegetables for each color of the rainbow!
12. Dip It
Maybe celery is not a hit in your house, but what about when it’s dipped in peanut butter? Or how about sliced cucumbers in oil-free and vegan ranch dressing? Toddlers and preschoolers, in particular, love to dip!
13. Cook With Your Kids
You've gone shopping together, you've gathered your garden spoils, now it’s time to cook! Find a quick, easy, and healthy plant-based recipe for kids to make and enjoy together as a family.
14. Shake Things Up
Maybe your kids don't like chickpeas in a salad, but will gladly devour them as crispy snacks. Prepare unpopular vegetables and fruits in a variety of ways to increase the chances of your children eating healthier. Serve them in different shapes, warm, cold, frozen, roasted, steamed, sautéed, with a dip; the sky is the limit.
15. Try Different Cuisines
This is a wonderful way to introduce your little ones to different flavors and cultures. You can assign a different cuisine for each week: Mexican, Japanese, Greek, Italian, etc.
- Dealing with picky eaters can be tough — but there's light at the end of the tunnel! From starting a family garden to simply continually offering the same veggies (cooked different ways), you'll be on the road to a plant-based kiddo in no time.
- No time to meal prep? No worries. Get the Mom Bundle from MamaSezz for kid and mom–approved plant-based foods, ready-made, and delivered fresh.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.