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Transform Mealtime: Getting Kids to Enjoy Fruits and Veggies through Mindfulness and Play

As parents and caregivers, we all recognize the role fruits and vegetables play in our children's growth and development, but getting them to actually eat these nutritious foods can be quite the uphill battle. Whether you're battling picky taste buds, the allure of junk food, or simply the stubborn refusal to try something new, we've all encountered mealtime challenges. But don't be discouraged, let's explore some fun and effective tips for getting kids to enjoy eating their fruits and veggies!

Make the Experience Fun and Interactive

Kids are more likely to eat foods they've associated with positive experiences, and for a child, there's no better indicator of that than fun. I'll never forget my first time eating cherry tomatoes in first grade after growing them alongside my classmates. You should never underestimate the impact a fun and interactive experience can have, so here are some ways you can make some healthy eating memories:

Get Children Involved with the Preparation Process

By letting them participate in the cooking process, you're empowering children with a sense of achievement and control over their food. You can have them assist you with safe tasks such as washing, stirring, and plating. You can also let things get more creative and have them work together to make food art like fruit and veggie faces or animals. Their contribution to a finished result will naturally make them curious to try the food that they put effort into preparing.

Themed Activities

While we encourage you to try involving them with the food they're about to eat, creating fruit and veggie-themed activities can also be a viable alternative. Children have a lot of energy, and sometimes more active play is needed to match those energy levels, but that doesn't mean you can't still contribute towards your goals of getting them interested in fruits and vegetables. Take the time to plan out activities such as a veggie-themed relay race or an outdoor fruit-themed yoga class. These outdoor activities can help them reduce stress and build up an appetite, which could then be directed towards some delicious and nutritious food.

Children meditating and doing yoga

Increasing Exposure and Accessibility

When it comes down to having any person warm up to an idea, repeated exposure does a lot of the heavy lifting. We want our children to develop healthy eating habits and an appetite for nutritious foods, but sometimes simply exposing them to new foods is too large of an ask. To make this uncharted territory less scary for our young adventurers, we must find ways to make their first steps easier. Here are two ways in which we could make the unknown less intimidating:

Sneaky Fruits and Sneaky Veggies

Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, you'll encounter a lot less friction if kids don't have a clue that you snuck some fruits or vegetables into their meals. You can opt to sneak them in as an ingredient or you can choose to have them accompanying a favorite meal. With summer knocking on our doorstep, some cool frozen fruit treats like popsicles would be a great way to get children to eat their fruits. Picture this, you've just spent half an hour playing outside on a hot summer day and you're given a frozen treat. Would you be inclined to at least try it? I think the answer for most is probably a yes.

Make Food Look Good and Easy to Eat

It should be no surprise to anyone that grab-and-go food has a much higher chance of being consumed. Children want to be in the midst of it all, they want to play, they want to run, and what they don't want is food that is hard to eat. So make sure your fruits and vegetables are cut into small and easy-to-manage pieces for those little hands. Don't be afraid to get creative with the presentation, make shapes, skewers, or whatever you want. Food that looks fun and is fun to eat is always going to beat food that makes your eyes and hands have to work. Nothing makes food easier to eat than a sauce that makes it taste better. Finding a dipping sauce that children enjoy when paired with a vegetable is a huge leap in the right direction. Even chicken nuggets need the assistance of dipping sauce, so your veggies needing some help is nothing to be ashamed of.

Frozen fruit popsicles

Leading Mindfully

When taking care of children, you have to be aware of how much influence your leadership can have on making their experiences positive. They are always looking at you as a role model, so make sure you're leading mindfully. A mindful leader is someone who is not easily frustrated and abundant with praise. Here are some practices that can help you:

Embrace Mindful Eating Practices

Encourage kids to eat slowly and to have an open conversation about food where they can discuss the flavors, textures, and benefits of different fruits and vegetables. Have them describe what they like or dislike about a food they try, and don't voice your frustration when they don't like something. Celebrate the small victories, the willingness to at least try something new merits praise.

Prepare for Food Rejection and Waste

Food rejections are inevitable, but that doesn't mean we cannot plan for it. Think of ways to repurpose food that could potentially be rejected into other meals. For example, you could blend up vegetables to make soup or freeze fruit to make smoothies. Having a backup plan for these foods helps minimize waste and you'll probably have a much easier time staying calm knowing that you have a backup plan.

fruit smoothie

Encouraging children to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables can be a challenging but rewarding journey when approached mindfully and creatively. By providing children with interactive activities, you can grow their curiosity. By making fruits and vegetables easily accessible and tasty, you can make them less intimidating. Lastly, by being a patient and mindful leader who celebrates effort, you can create positive and engaging food experiences that foster a child's love for fruits and vegetables.

By embracing mindfulness and play, we can transform struggles such as mealtime into magical and joyful experiences. For more information on teaching mindfulness to early learners, be sure to follow our blog and browse our website.

Click here to watch our fruit and veggie-themed playlist on YouTube to help jumpstart your creative ideas!

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