Did your child eat their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables today? I am going to guess not, because the CDC stated that from 2007-2010, 9 out of 10 children did not eat their recommended daily value of vegetables! Fruits and vegetables are so nutritious and often served, so why are they so hard to get kiddos to eat?! Well, this deserves its own blog, but for a short answer, fruits and vegetables are hard to eat! Eating them requires a great deal of oral motor skills, which not all children (and adults!) have. Oral motor skills are those that are needed for proper speech and feeding. These may include strength, coordination, movement, and endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw. If you think about eating a bite of macaroni and cheese, you can use your tongue to squish it on the roof of your mouth, you wouldn’t have to use your teeth at all if you didn’t want to or know how to. Now, think about taking a bite of broccoli. Your teeth have to move in specific motions and your mouth has to be able to continuously chew until it is to a point of being able to swallow. Much different, isn’t it?
While they are hard to eat, they do offer a great deal of health benefits, making them important for children to incorporate into their diet. Just a few of the benefits include improved digestive tract, protect from future diseases, increased attention and focus, and even increased school performance! This is all great information at all but useless if your child refuses to eat fruits and vegetables. Our occupational therapists came up with some great ways to help this food battle.
• Take the name of the food away. For example, call broccoli a “little tree.” Be creative, make some fun names!
• Play with food! You can paint with grapes and make polka dots, you can play with banana “boats” in a sea of shaving cream, etc. Again, be creative, add them into different activities to help your child get used to the sight of them.
• Add them into smoothies! There are plenty of sneaky recipes on Pinterest.
• Always present fruit and vegetables when food is presented, even if that just means laying them out on the table. It is important to not force them to eat them even if they are there.
• Try and incorporate it in small amounts into food they already like, such as adding zucchini to their spaghetti.
These are just a few, general ideas for fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned in any way about your child’s feeing or eating patterns, please call our office and we will connect you with an occupational therapist who can further assist you at 651-455-0561.