I was giving a talk on nutrition for heart health at our local library recently, emphasizing the power of the plant-based diet, and someone asked me the dreaded question:
“How do you get your kids to eat plants?”
It wasn’t a challenge, just an honest query from another health-minded parent. Still, Hubby (sitting in the audience) and I exchanged embarrassed glances, knowing that there’s plenty of honey maple turkey slices in the fridge and honey nut cheerios in the pantry, and that these and more are decidedly NOT plants.
Welp, it is what it is, so I decided to just be honest:
“As working parents, we’re often in survival mode, and while ideally they’d be as plant-based as we are, we don’t stress about it. There’s just too much going on. So yes, our son gets cold cuts and hot dogs, and our daughter gets a ton of bread and butter. But we sneak in plants wherever we can.”
Here, Hubby jumped in: “Fruit plate! Morning and evening!”
Right! We do this! Good save!
I explained: “We’ll cut up whatever fruit we have, or even use frozen fruit, and set it out on a plate first thing in the morning, and last thing after dinner. We don’t wait for them to ask, we just set it out, and 99% of the time, they eat it.”
This is all true. A relative once chuckled about our leaving fruit out all the time, saying, “It’s like feeding birds… You scatter it out there, and they will swoop down to eat it!”
Yup! A friend does this after school, because kids are ravenous after school. She sets out all kinds of fruits and veggies, and they will eat it. When I’m picking up our kids (which is only one day a week), I pack them little containers of cut fruit, and they devour it all before we get to our next destination.
So the take-home advice here is, do not wait for kids to ask for healthy food. Just chop it up and set it out. Even if they avoid the peppers and carrots, they will be exposed to these and other healthy vegetables, thus cementing in their heads that THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE EAT. Someday, they will eat the peppers and carrots. Meantime, let them have all the apples, berries, melon, pears, blueberries, mango that they want!
Because if you plate it, they will eat it.