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How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Last weekend, my kids came home from an afternoon playing catch at the park with my husband. While they were gone, I cooked up a storm, not just because the house was quiet, but because I was tired of playing short-order cook (no spicy things, no green things, sauce on the side). I made the foods I wanted to eat: stir-fried mushrooms, spicy ma po tofu redolent with onions and garlic, and vegetable soup.

It was kind of a gamble, but I know that kids who have just burned a lot of calories are not going to be that picky. Both my boys cleaned their bowls—well, except for the mushrooms. I silently watched my finicky fourth-grader devour spoonfuls of tofu, waiting for him to complain about the chunks of ginger and red peppers. When he finally stopped to talk, he tilted his empty bowl and asked, “May I be excused?”

RELATED: The Secret To Making School Lunches

A new study confirms what savvy moms have known forever. If you want your kids to eat well—and eat their veggies—you need to give them a chance to run around and work up an appetite. The study, by researchers at Brigham Young University, reports that students will eat 54 percent more fruits and vegetables if given recess before lunch, instead of after it.

No red-blooded American kid is going to be caught dead finishing his turkey on wheat when there are foursquare games, Pokemon trades or games of tag starting.

I don’t doubt it. Too often, I’ve emptied out lunch boxes after school, only to find nearly whole sandwiches, full thermoses and only the chips and juice boxes gone. Grrr.

When asked about it, my sons always give the same answer: There’s not enough time to eat.

Not enough time? I’ve cross-examined them on this topic many times and here’s the deal: The minute the lunch monitor blows her whistles to excuse the tables, no red-blooded American kid is going to be caught dead finishing his turkey on wheat when there are foursquare games, Pokemon trades or games of tag starting. Miss the beginning of recess and you might as well condemn yourself to being the last one chosen for a game of pickup soccer.

RELATED: Why I Give My Son Cookies for Breakfast

I asked around to some mom friends, and it turns out a surprising number of schools allow students to run around at recess first, then sit down to unzip their lunchboxes. It seems weird, I know, and goes against all my memories of the traditional order of eat-first, play-later. But if it works, I’d be willing to give it a try, especially if it results in fewer baby carrots and apples slices being tossed at the end of the day.

Image via Twenty20

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