Meat as a Side Dish, part 3: Clever ways to increase the fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet

Nutrition, Family Health
Aug 15, 2023

St. Joseph’s Hospital clinical dietitian and mom offers 10 tips to get your kids to eat their veggies

Last month, St. Joseph’s/Candler started a multi-part series examining the health benefits of reducing the amount of animal food sources you consume in your diet. It’s called, Meat as a Side Dish. While we respect everyone’s health decisions, including diet choices, we hope you find the information in these articles educational and maybe even a little inspiring.  


Moms and dads, are your kids fussy eaters? Do you feel like you are constantly struggling to get your kids to finish their plate? Particularly the portions that are fruits and vegetables? Well, you are not alone.

As a mom of young children, Haley Cox knows it can be difficult to get your child to pick apple slices over French fries. As a clinical dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital, she also knows the importance of getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. Haley Cox

“Fruits and vegetables are nutritious and delicious and fun to eat,” Cox says. “There’s a rainbow of colors to choose from which provide a great source of antioxidants, unlike sugary snacks and fast food, which are high in fat and sugar.”

Diets dominated by fruits and veggies can reduce risk of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These plant-based foods also help you feel healthy and energized, and getting children in the habit of eating fruits and vegetables early in life helps them continue that trend through adulthood.

10 tips to get your child to eat more fruits and vegetables

Just because we know something is good for us and our kids, doesn’t always mean it’s easy. However, there are several ways parents can get their kids to eat more fruits and veggies. Cox suggests:

  1. Let the kids help in washing and preparing the fruits and vegetables.
  2. Slice fruits and veggies so they are easy to grab and snack on.
  3. Add diced or pureed fruits and vegetables to muffins or other desserts.
  4. Add diced vegetables to your child’s favorite meal, such as spaghetti, meatloaf or other casseroles.
  5. Grow vegetables and herbs at home to teach children where food comes from and encourage them to try new foods. “Kids are more likely to try a small bite of carrots, broccoli or tomatoes if they’ve helped to plant and pick them,” Cox says. If you don’t have space for a garden, a window box or planter also can work.
  6. Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal – add it to cereal, on top of a salad or dip for an after-school snack.
  7. Eat together. Research shows that kids eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and sugary drinks when they eat with the entire family.
  8. Avoid buying high calorie foods such as chips, cookies and candy bars. Your child may not ask for these treats if they are not in sight.
  9. Be a role model – eat more fruits and vegetables yourself.
  10. Have fun and get creative with your meals.


Coming next month: Can what you eat cause cancer? We take a look at meat’s impact on cancer risks, as well as what you should eat during your cancer treatment. 

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