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How to get kids to eat vegetables, fruits

Cutting fruit and vegetables into small pieces can

Cutting fruit and vegetables into small pieces can make it more intriguing to kids. Credit: Fotolia

Q. I can’t get my 2-year-old to eat any vegetables or fruit. How unhealthy is this? I do give him a multivitamin nightly.

A. “That’s the single biggest battleground between parent and child concerning eating at 2 years old — vegetables,” says Suzette Smookler, director of clinical nutrition at Stony Brook Medicine.

If he’s taking an age-appropriate vitamin, that should fulfill nutritional requirements. However, you don’t want a child growing up to think the vitamin is the answer, Smookler says. He will miss out on benefits such as fiber, she says.

What’s unusual about your situation is that usually if the child won’t eat vegetables, he will eat fruit. Your child wants neither.

The most important thing is to drop any battling, Smookler says. “The more anger there is about it, the more the child isn’t going to eat it,” she says.

Offer small quantities of certain fruits and vegetables cut into finger food, she says. Consider texture — sometimes a child is turned off by texture rather than taste.

Start with colorful fruits such as watermelon or cantaloupe cut into small pieces. “Remember that a portion for a 2-year-old is different from a portion for a 30-year-old,” Smookler says. A couple of mouthfuls worth is a sufficient serving, two to four times a day.

Don’t turn to juices such as orange or apple, Smookler says, as it has too much fructose and can encourage a child to desire only sweet fruit.

As for vegetables, she suggests starting by slicing thin, curly strips of carrot or small pieces of red pepper.

Look for cookbooks geared to enticing toddlers to eat vegetables and fruit by preparing them in entertaining ways or by sneaking them into foods he’ll eat, like muffins.

He won’t be this picky forever, Smookler says. “When I was little, I wouldn’t go near asparagus,” she says. “Now I love asparagus.”

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