Can you get a picky eater to love her veggies?Struggling to get a picky eater to gobble her vegetables? Sure, plenty of kids are reluctant to eat their veggies, but we know of more than a few grown-ups who also turn up their noses at broccoli, spinach, and other produce. Try these 6 smart strategies to get your picky eaters to love -- or at least tolerate -- their veggies.
1. Don't oversell the health factor. "It's good for you" backfires with picky eaters, who often equate "healthy" with "boring" or, worse, "yucky." Instead, focus on the flavor, color, texture -- whatever resonates with them.
Grown-up finicky eaters may be swayed by a food's health benefits if those benefits are personally relevant, according to a new study about consumer preferences. For example, if your mate wants to lower his cholesterol, a vegetable's cholesterol-improving benefit can be a good selling point.
2. Play hide-and-seek. Sneaking vegetables into familiar foods is a time-honored tradition. Another new study confirms this is a smart strategy, especially if you want to get a kid to eat a new-to-her veggie.
3. Pair vegetables with a creamy dip. Many kids won't touch broccoli or other strong-flavored veggies (cauliflower, spinach, kale, and the like) because kids' taste buds are hypersensitive to the veggies' bitter undertones. While most people outgrow this reaction, not all do.
If your kid (or finicky spouse) wants to dip everything in ranch dressing, here's why: The creaminess of the dressing helps tame the bitterness in the vegetables. If you buy bottled dressing, make sure it's a low-fat, no-sugar-added variety.
4. Introduce new veggies all the time. Picky eaters prefer the familiar. So you probably need to expose them to a new food several times for them to even try it. Try likening it to something they already enjoy. Or make a game of it: "How many raisins can stick to a celery stalk filled with peanut butter?"
5. Use positive peer pressure. Kids want to be like their friends, so having them share a meal with veggie-loving pals, siblings, or cousins can be a powerful motivator to dig in. But avoid the temptation to say, "Look at Nathan eating all his broccoli. Don't you want to be like him?" That'll annoy your child -- and his friend.
6. Ask questions. Sure, some picky eaters hate vegetables on principle, but others dislike them for very specific reasons. Is the flavor? The color? The texture? You may discover that a picky eater who doesn't like roasted cauliflower loves it mashed like potatoes. Or someone who rejected braised kale gobbles it up as baked "chips." Or a kid who hates red beets likes golden ones.
Whatever you do, don't make eating vegetables a battle. Just be patient, try some new strategies, and your picky eater may surprise you one day.
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