Encouraging children to eat veg and fruit

Eating vegetables and fruit every day enhances the health of children throughout childhood and helps to establish lifelong healthy dietary habits. But how can children be encouraged to eat enough vegetables and fruit each day?

The first solid foods most babies eat are vegetables and fruit. And for most babies, vegetables and fruit continue to be a major part of their diet for the first 12-18 months. After that, when many infants are introduced to a wider range of foods, vegetable and fruit consumption may start to decline. This often occurs if young children are given more "tasty" foods or foods that are flavour enhanced and/or high in fat or sugar at an early age. So, to begin with, young children can be encouraged to keep eating vegetables and fruit every day if the introduction of "tasty" or flavour enhanced foods - eg. chips, chocolate, lollies, biscuits etc., is delayed and children's intake of these foods is controlled and limited.

Another way to promote and foster children's daily consumption of vegetables and fruit is to continue to make vegetables and fruit a part of the whole family's diet and the meals of children's carers. Children learn from routines and practices that are familiar to them and by the example that is set for them. Making vegetables and fruit routinely available, and eating vegetables and fruit with children, can encourage children to consume vegetables and fruit regularly even if it is in lesser quantities as children start to self select other foods as well.

Other strategies for encouraging children to eat vegetables and fruit every day include:

  • Involving children in food shopping and meal preparation, emphasising vegetables and fruit;
  • Making meal presentation, and vegetable and fruit presentation in particular, attractive;
  • Making meal times positive and enjoyable experiences, fostering healthy eating in a healthy environment; and
  • Incorporating vegetables and fruit into meals in different ways, - e.g., raw vegetables, vegetables cut into different shapes, vegetables and fruit disguised in sauces or other foods.

Choking risks?

Toddlers and young children can enjoy many raw vegetables and fruit, however some foods are a choking risk.

Hard vegetables and fruit such as apple, carrot and celery should be partially cooked or grated for young children to make them safe. Grapes should be cut into quarters for children under four years of age. Avoid introducing corn chips, nuts and popcorn until children are four years old as these are a choking risk (Satter, E. How to get your kid to eat. But not too much. Polto Alto, CA; Bull Publishing, 1987).

Munch into veg and fruit everyday