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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Tricks and tips to get kids to eat more veggies



fitkids.jpgIt was nice to see this story by our colleague Elisabeth Parker on Tampa mom Marisa Langford, who started a monthly event called "Playin' in the Park" in March with about $3,000 awarded from a national childhood obesity prevention program. Today (and the first Tuesday of every month) kids can eat healthy snacks, like apples and carrots, and engage in what Langford calls "free organic play" from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The event drew more than 200 children last month.

But the other part of Parker's story that caught my eye were Langford's tips on how to get your kids to eat more veggies. Here's here suggestions:

• Cut carrots, cucumbers, and radishes into fun shapes (thin sticks, circles, triangles) and provide a healthy dip, such as ranch seasoning mixed with low-fat yogurt.

• Make veggie "fries." Cut potatoes and sweet potatoes into crinkle shapes or thin sticks and bake them in the oven versus frying them. Sprinkle with different seasonings and provide healthy dip.

• Take taco night to a new level by mixing black or pinto beans into the taco mixture (either ground beef or turkey). Shred carrots and mix them with shredded cheese for toppings along with diced tomatoes, corn, diced red bell peppers and mild green onions.

• Make up names for food, such as "Fancy Nancy French Dressing."

• Use sprinkles to make food look like a party.

• Market your food with characters. Go to any party store and stock up on your kids' favorite character plates.

• Tell kids how their muscles grow when they eat their fruits and veggies. Have them show you their muscles. ("Wow, they are getting bigger with every bite!")

• Cook with your kids.

• Presentation is everything! Make your child's plate look nice. Separated food plates, smaller portions and bite-size pieces help.

Anyone else have any other tips? I had pretty finicky eaters until we started doing a better job of sitting down for a home-cooked family meal most nights. I also found that we stopped fighting about eating veggies by ... not talking about it. I sat my older, most finicky one, down and apologized for all the fights and cajoling and said I didn't want to do that anymore. Dinner was for visiting, not negotiations and battles. So I promised him I wouldn't nag anymore if he would only give me one "no thank you" bite.

Then, the tricky part was I had to live up to my agreement. He tested me that first week or so by not finishing stuff that he previously would eat. I kept to my promise of no nagging, and instead worked hard to make the dinner table conversation more fun and interesting.

I had also made the classic rookie mom mistake of assuming they would never like the green stuff so I stopped offering and made meals I knew they would eat because I got tired of wasted food. By instituting the "no thank you" bite, it took them awhile but they soon discovered they liked asparagus and green beans and salad and finished without being asked. It was later that I read how some children may need to be exposed to a new food 10 or 12 times before they are willing to try it or like it. So the "keep offering" advice you here is based on sound experience.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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PHOTO: From left, Asma Ahmed, 6; Samia Raza, 5; Aleena Raza, 4; and Sarah Raza, 5, Hula Hoop in Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa on March 1. The girls were on their way to visit the Glazer Children’s Museum next door but ended up participating in a physical fitness program called “Playin’ in the Park.” [BRYAN THOMAS | Times]

[Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 11:14am]


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