Eat your greens! Tips and tricks for getting your kids to eat their fruit and veg
How *does* one get one's offspring to eat their greens without bribery or coercion? Is it even possible? We asked Mumsnetters for their top tips on how to encourage children to hit that five a day target.
1. Get the kids involved
"My son is very independent and will happily eat previously-rejected foods if he has made or prepared them himself. I am very much for involving little ones in the growing, shopping for and preparation of fruit and vegetables."
"I take my daughter to the greengrocer’s with me and let her choose some interesting veg. She's more likely to eat the veg that she has chosen (though this doesn't always work!)"
2. If at first you don't succeed…
"I was told that someone has to try something 20 times before they really know if they dislike it, so I kept retrying things after a gap or presenting foods in in a different way. It seems to have worked!"
3. Variety is the spice of life
"I pick a big variety of veg to serve so it changes meal-to-meal."
"Try to get a couple of portions in with every meal so at tea time you're not trying to get 5 a day into one meal."
"What worked for mine to get them eating fruit was to offer a 'fruit salad' instead of a whole apple or banana. So they got the same fruit but more variety."
4. You can certainly try stealth tactics...
"My two year-old won't eat fruit or vegetables in their own form, so I blitz them up and pop them into mini quiches, make them into fritters, make apple & cheese quesadillas - things like that. Not really hidden, but much more exciting!"
"I make a big minestrone soup from scratch with onion, peas, cabbage, carrot, beans, green beans, lentils, spinach and broccoli and blend it. The kids love it and I have some for freezing too."
"Kids eat with their eyes..if they don't see the veg, they don't know they're eating it."
(...but this approach is not for everyone)
"I totally disagree with hiding healthy items in sauce or whatever it is you are preparing, as this just perpetuates the myth that kids don't like such ingredients and should not see them in their natural form."
5. Presentation is key
"My kids will happily eat any fruit as long as it is on a skewer! They love fruit kebabs..."
"If you’re introducing a new food, do buy the best-looking items. Once they love bananas, then you can introduce them to the fact that some of the best-tasting bananas are hidden by the most manky- looking skins!"
"A real favourite is vegetable spaghetti. I use a julienne cutter to cut carrots, courgette, leek etc and then cook in a little oil with the lid on the pan. You can flavour with herbs and spices if you like too. Sounds really faffy but absolutely isn't and is SO colourful."
6. Try different recipes and cooking methods
"I use taco boats: lightly fry pepper, courgettes, broccoli, mushrooms - basically any veg that might be eaten - then put a taco boat shell on everyone's plate and encourage them to fill the boat with veg, sprinkle grated cheese on top, then squirt on their own choice of salsa, sour cream etc."
"I blend fruit with yoghurt to make smoothies. They also make great ice lollies when frozen too..."
"Tempura veg is lovely and good for harder sells like cauliflower."
7. Harness their competitive nature
"My children are very competitive with each other, so after years of struggling to get my ten-year-old son to eat any veg, I proposed a competition to see who could eat the most carrots and broccoli - the prize being permission to stay up ten minutes after bedtime. To my shock, he scoffed the lot."
8. Lead by example
"The best thing we've always found is to show our son us eating our vegetables and enjoying them."
9. Make sure it's up for grabs
"We always have fruit available and I think that helps. If it’s accessible and in plain view, they are more likely to ask for it than if it's not there or they can't see it."
10. Wait 'til they're really hungry
"My number one tip is: hand out any kind of fruit and veg they want to them while you’re cooking their dinner and they are pestering you because they are hungry. I usually get two portions in them that way."
11. Turn it in to an exciting event
"I have always turned apples, carrots, celery etc into finger food and sometimes served them with dips, 'crudité' style."
"When I cook anything with spinach, we do the before and after test. We put a chair in front of the children before dinner with one of us secretly stepping onto the chair, making it impossible to lift. The children try but are not strong enough. After they have eaten all their spinach, they are miraculously able to lift the chair and are well chuffed about how strong they are! It's great fun and I'm terrified of the day it no longer works…"
"When putting out their meals I would pile on vegetables, then mutter to myself, 'no, you can't have that much' - and take some off leaving what I wanted them to have in the first place. They used to beg for more vegetables and I've never had any issues of getting them to eat veg since!"
"A good way of teaching little ones about the different nutrients and having a balanced diet is to encourage a 'rainbow day', aiming to eat as many colours of the rainbow each day as possible - strawberries at breakfast, carrot sticks at snack time, sweetcorn with lunch, blueberries for afternoon snack, broccoli for tea and a plum for dessert, for example."
12. And remember not to let your own prejudices affect their choice
"Remember that children may like vegetables that you do not ."
The Tesco Eat Happy Project
Studies show that 90% of 7 – 14 year olds do not eat their five-a-day. Tesco’s Farm to Fork Trails allow children to touch, smell and taste a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Parents and teachers say that children are more willing to try new varieties after the visit. Find out more.
Last updated: over 1 year ago