Pediatrician’s Corner

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., MPH, County of San Diego Child Health Medical Officer
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., MPH, County of San Diego Child Health Medical Officer

Fruits and Veggies and Kids!

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, but how do you get your kids to eat them? Here are some tips for getting your kids to eat the fruits and veggies they need to stay healthy.

It starts with choosing the fruits or veggies for your family to eat:

  • Let your child choose a fruit or vegetable that looks appealing at the grocery store.
  • For fresh fruits and veggies, select them when they are in season – they taste better and are usually cheaper.
  • If buying frozen or canned vegetables or fruit, choose those with low or no sodium and no added sugar.
  • You might even want to grow some veggies at home – try planting a vegetable plant in a pot and let your kids take care of it with you. They will be very proud of what they’ve helped to grow.

Then, involve your kids in preparing the fruits and veggies:

  • Involve your child in preparing meals so that he can become familiar with the foods.
  • They can snap beans or break the florets off of broccoli.
  • If you are putting veggies in a quesadilla or on a pizza, let your kids arrange them in fun patterns – smiley faces, butterflies or hearts, for example.
  • Remember, vegetables such as carrots and corn may pose a choking hazard for children under 4 years of age. Grate carrots and remove strings from celery for younger children.
  • Have a raw and cooked vegetable option so that your child can choose the one she likes best. Some children like the crunch in raw vegetables, while others like vegetables to be soft and mushy.

Make snack time healthy:

  • Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table for a quick, easy snack.
  • Freeze fruits such as bananas or grapes for a frozen treat (but remember, raw fruits such as grapes may pose a choking hazard for children under 4 years of age. Cut grapes in quarters for younger children.
  • Always have freshly cut vegetable sticks in the refrigerator.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables with your children – you are their best role model!

What if you child is picky?

  • Be patient, children can be very picky. It may take as many as 10 to 15 tries with a new food before your child is willing to accept it.
  • Think about color, smell and texture when introducing your child to a new food – he may enjoy raw crunchy broccoli but not cooked broccoli in casseroles, or soft canned peaches but not freshly sliced peaches.
  • Add raisins, bananas and other fresh or dried fruits to hot or cold cereals.
  • Be sneaky – add broccoli florets or julienne carrots to pasta or potato salad; add spinach, mushrooms or zucchini to spaghetti sauce; mash beans and add corn and carrots in chili; or shred zucchini and carrots into meat loaf or casseroles.
  • Don’t give up – you are responsible for what your children eat, they are responsible for when and how much – be patient.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Learn what counts as a cup of fruit or vegetables, for example: 1 small apple; 8 large strawberries, 12 baby carrots, or 1 large ear of corn are all about 1 cup.
  • Fresh fruit is a better choice than juice – while whole fruit contains some natural sugars that make it taste sweet, it also has lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber – which makes it more filling and nutritious than a glass of fruit juice.

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