Finger foods, funny faces and flavor make vegetables more attractive to kids


Here are what the experts recommend you do to get your children to eat their vegetables:

* Serve vegetables in new combinations. Children tend to favor peas, carrots, beans and corn. Mix these with others they are less likely to eat, such as broccoli and cauliflower.

* Prepare vegetables in new ways. Stir-fry them or sprinkle low-fat cheese on top of steamed vegetables. Use vegetables as pizza toppings or add them to spaghetti sauce.

* Offer carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and other finger-food vegetables as snacks. Serve raw vegetables with yogurt, salsas and bean dips.

* Be sure vegetable snacks are ready to pick up and carry. Keep carrot sticks packed in sandwich-size zip-seal bags so kids can eat them on the go. And get your child involved in preparing the vegetables by having them help make and package those carrot sticks.

* Give children stalks of celery and let them scoop up their stew with an edible spoon.

* Add crunch to tacos with a few slices of red or green bell pepper.

* Let children use bits of vegetables -- carrot coins, red pepper strips, zucchini slices -- to make a face on half a bagel spread with cream cheese. The children may actually eat the vegetables in order to "erase" the face and start over.

* Just like adults, children want their vegetables to taste good. Don't be timid. Add some garlic or chopped onion to the broccoli. But go slow on the salt.

* Children like a combination of colors and shapes. A vegetable saute might include carrot coins, pepper strips and cauliflower florets.

* Use vegetables in casseroles or add them to foods that might not otherwise contain them. Then give children choices. Ask if they want peas or broccoli in their macaroni and cheese. If neither alternative is accepted, you are no worse off. But if one is, you've gotten your toddler to eat vegetables.

* Cut corn on the cob into 1-inch pieces and let your child gnaw on them.

* Lay cooked asparagus on a plate like a tic-tac-toe board and let carrots coins be the "O's" and something else serve as "X's."

* Make mashed potatoes and stick cauliflower or broccoli florets into them. Or fold chopped mixed vegetables into the mash.

* Put chopped vegetables into canned chicken or vegetable broth to make soup. Getting children to eat soup is often easier than vegetables.

* Pay attention to children's food preferences. Some children don't like two items touching on a plate. Respect that.

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