In the long-standing battle between parents and children about eating vegetables, it seems that the kids may have won. A new study analyzing the diets of infants to two year olds found that many were lacking fresh produce. About 25 percent of 6 to 11 month olds, and 20 percent of 12 to 23 month olds reported not eating vegetables on the day caregivers were surveyed.

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Not only were children eating less good-for-you grub, but they were also consuming more unhealthy foods, too, reports CBS News. About 26 percent of one year olds snacked on french fries a day before the survey. Only 7.5 percent ate dark green vegetables one day prior.

Of course, there are many factors likely accounting for these results, including accessibility and picky eaters who’d rather nosh on chicken nuggets than broccoli. While your little ones may never beg for Brussels sprouts, Sarah Romotsky, registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, says it’s important to get a variety of produce into your kids’ diet as each offers unique benefits.

“For example, orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins contain a provitamin A carotenoid called beta-carotene, which is important for vision and immune health,” she explains. “Purple vegetables like eggplants contain a different, but equally important component called anthocyanins and play an antioxidant role in the body.”

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Romotsky, a mother herself, offers five tips to make offensive foods more palatable to young eaters.

Snack Strategically

Introducing new foods can be tough, and our expert recommends providing foreign veggies as snacks instead of meals.

“Think about yourself when you are hungry—all you want to do is eat and someone gives you some strange food you’ve never had,” she says. “You are likely to get frustrated instead of full.”

Be (A Little) Sneaky

“You can go completely stealth mode and swap out certain ingredients in baked goods for vegetables,” Romotsky tells us, illustrating how half of the butter in a brownie recipe can be substituted with pureed black beans. However, she cautions against making this a habit as it’s important for children to make their own healthy choices. Instead, slip vegetables into their favorite meals, like spinach in lasagna, or add a bunch of broccoli next to that cheesy slab of carbs. Romotsky believes this fosters a positive association and is an easy way to make new vegetables seem familiar.

Mix It Up

Just because your son doesn’t like fresh carrots doesn’t mean he won’t like it in other forms. “Kids sometimes prefer the taste of canned or frozen over fresh so try it all,” explains the dietitian.

For those who believe fresh is best, Romotsky says that canned and frozen are often just as nutritionally beneficial.

Try Again

Zucchini might not be a hit this month, but it could be your daughter's new favorite food weeks from now. 

“Don’t assume because they rejected the food once that will always be the case,” Romotsky advises. However, if your child truly dislikes a certain vegetable, she says it’s best to move onto the next.

Don’t Be A Purist

Romotsky urges parents to remember that vegetables don’t always have to come in their traditional forms. Low-sodium foods like soup, juice, tomato sauce and vegetable pasta can offer creative and healthy solutions to get your kids to eat up.

See Also:

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