Why it's bad
Vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C, plus fiber. You can get those in fruit too, but learning to love vegetables is still important: Kids who eat veggies grow up to be adults who eat veggies, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables is linked to a better diet, healthier body weight, and lower risk of disease.
How to break the habit
- Don't be afraid of fat. A little bit of healthy fat makes veggies taste better, plus it helps the body absorb the vitamins. A teaspoon of light margarine or a sprinkle of reduced-fat shredded cheese adds fewer than 50 calories and a couple grams of fat -- and may mean your child actually eats his broccoli.
- Make it special. Let your kids help you create an "appetizer tray" of veggies for them to munch on while you're fixing dinner, along with some hummus or low-fat ranch dressing for dip. "This does take some extra time, but it can make all the difference in the world," says Dr. Trachtenberg.
- Be cool. Never pressure or punish your kids over any food, vegetables included, or you're headed for some serious power struggles. Actions speak louder than words, so always have veggies on the table at meals (put new ones alongside "safety" veggies they already know), eat a helping or two yourself, and casually mention how fresh and delicious they are. It may take weeks (or months), but your child just might ask to try them someday.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of Parents magazine.