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Take the Drama Out of 'Five a Day' for Children

By: Meg Russell - Updated: 26 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Children Babies Finger Food Smoothies

Five-a-day. It trips off the tongue doesn't it, the fruit and vegetable health mantra?

If only it were so easy to persuade our children that this is a regime they will love.

Yet we owe it to them and to ourselves to find ways to incorporate the five-a-day into their daily diet, especially when we are faced with rising obesity in children and the risks that can mean for their long-term health.

Tips on How to Do It

The most useful tip of all is to catch them young!

Babies are open to trying all kinds of tastes and, when they first start with finger foods, pieces of fruit and soft vegetables are ideal.

Don't Give up at the First Attempt

Remember that the tastes of babies and young children change, and a food that you try once that is rejected, may be taken and enjoyed six months down the line. It is worth trying again a few times.

Don't Make a Drama out of it

Never use negative language or facial expressions to describe tastes - even if you dislike them yourself.

Use the same positive approach to fruits and vegetables as you do for other food treats. Use adjectives that the child associates with 'yummy' foods.

Get Creative

This does not necessarily mean making faces out of vegetables to get your child to eat them - though if it works don't mock it.

Think instead of ways to involve toddlers and children that will make their enjoyment of fruits and vegetables natural.

Allow More Time for the Supermarket

It takes more time and trouble, but if you can involve the children when you shop in the fruit and vegetable aisles, they will gain a sense of control over what they are eating.

You can draw attention to the colours, textures and smells and allow older children to do some of the choosing and weighing.

Involve the Children at Home

At home, small children can get satisfaction from involvement in washing and preparing fruits and vegetables, with stories about where they come from.

They can have a little taste of something and you can make that seem like a real treat.

Let Them Prepare Food for Themselves

With supervision, children from around eight or so are capable of making a simple fruit salad or vegetable sticks.

If you choose to let them do this when they have a friend over it will turn into a good time.

Allow for Likes and Dislikes

Don't get into the way of thinking that older children are refusing certain fruits or vegetables that you enjoy, just to be insubordinate.

Why make children eat something they dislike? As long as you can replace it with something that is just as nutritionally good for them, then that's alright.

Resort to Subterfuge

If all else fails, hide the vegetables.

There's no shame in this - it's a well-used tactic. You can mash various vegetables up with potato; hide small, cooked vegetable pieces in pasta shapes; and, most successfully, liquidise fruit or vegetables and add them to sauces, soups or desserts.

Make Smoothies Galore

Most children love smoothies and there are any number of variations to increase their fruit intake.

The children, too, can have fun making their own creations, with supervision.

Use Subtle Temptation

Whole fruit might not be particularly appealing for children. But it is amazing how tempting a bowl of colourful fruits, cut into segments, can be.

Placed discreetly in view of the children while they are watching television, for example, the fruit bowl is dipped into almost involuntarily.

Make Mealtimes Relaxing

It is important to make mealtimes relaxing and enjoyable for children.

The more children learn to enjoy meals as a happy time the family spend together, the more likely they are to try out and enjoy the variety of foods on offer.

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