Experts suggest that kids who know the names and appearances of veggies are more likely to eat them. We’ve got five easy tips for exposing your kids to vegetables and their benefits, for more educational and happy mealtimes.

To know a veggie is to love it.

That’s the common thinking, anyway. Teach a kid to know her vegetables, and you may have a veggie lover in … well, how long it takes might vary. But evidence indicates kids are more likely to eat foods they recognize and know the names of. The rest depends on the kid. What’s important is we achieve the small victories that lead to a lifetime of good health.

So we’ve pulled together a 101 on veggie education. Here are five simple tips for familiarizing your kids to veggies and their benefits, in a fun way.

  • Get the big picture: Share a good children’s book, cookbook or magazine that highlights vegetables. This is a chance to point out different veggies and their nutritional benefits, but be sure to frame these benefit in ways kids understand.  Rather than say “It’s good for you,” explain benefits kids can relate to, such as “It will help you run faster.” Each week you can discuss a different vegetable.
  • Make a game of it: Help kids remember their veggies with memory games or match games. Ask them to name one vitamin they can find in a bell pepper, for example. Or simply challenge them to match different veggies with their names. The nonprofit program Fruits & Veggies – More Matters hosts a page dedicated to games and activities.
  • Vincent Van Grow: Shared creativity is a great way for kids to “see” what we’d like them to learn. Draw or paint vegetables together and give them each a story (ex: Why do peas and carrots get along so well?). Making a collage of the veggie rainbow will help your kiddo better connect the importance of veggie colors with a happy growing body.
  • Let their bodies teach them: Ask your kids how they feel. If he is hungry for sweets, casually suggest that his body may be saying it wants more sulfur, which can be found cauliflower, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies. If she is feeling strong, tell her it is from the iron in the green salad she ate with lunch. Feeling smart? Could be the green beans.
  • Give them the podium: This is where all that education pays off. Invite the kids to select what veggies they’d like for snacks or dinner, and to tell you why they chose them. Use their reasons as a platform to explain veggie benefits, such as how they help kids see better and strengthen muscles to make them stronger.

Lastly, a good student needs an inspiring teacher. Learn about veggies yourself. You may be surprised! For example, did you know that corn is actually a member of the grass family? Or that cucumbers contain anti-inflammatory compounds believed to improve memory?

That’s one way to remember why you should love your veggies.

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