The Veggie Ritual That Works

Here's a trick if you want a healthier family in 2017

Wrap them in bacon, serve them with ranch dip, or disguise them in a smoothie. Sound familiar?

Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables always seem tough, especially at this time of year, when beautifully decorated sugar cookies and trays of homemade fudge look far more tempting than Grandma’s famous green bean casserole or butternut squash.

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But a new study shares a few additional tricks. And parents have to participate.

Eating meals together as a family is one way that has shown to be effective in getting children to eat better. And in homes where family meals were rare, children actually ate more fruits and vegetables when they were readily available and they saw parents consume them, too.

Roughly one-third of teens report two or less family meals a week.

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“Interestingly, we found that in the absence of regular family meals, these other parenting practices had a positive association with teen fruit and vegetable consumption,” lead study author Allison Watts of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis told Reuters. “Their independent effect appeared to be greater than family meals alone, and that the combination of regular family meals and healthful parenting practices had the largest positive associations with teen fruit and vegetable intake.”

Pretty basic: If you eat well, your kids are more likely to follow in your footsteps, the survey of about 2,500 teens in Minnesota found.

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On average, the kids reported eating 3.7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which doesn’t sound bad. But it is less than the minimum five servings recommended for a healthy diet. With frequent family meals, the volume went up — teens got 4.2 daily servings of fruits and veggies. But family meals aren’t happening very often. Roughly one-third of teens report two or less family meals a week. Among that group of kids, they reported eating only 3.3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Related: Unhealthy Kids ‘Make Me Sad’

Teens ate more fruits and vegetables every day if they were easily accessible — meaning they were already cut up and left in easy-to-reach places on the counter or in the fridge, researchers report in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So maybe no gimmicks, dips or disguises are needed when it comes to getting your kids to eat more healthfully. As for Grandma’s green bean casserole? As if you needed an excuse for second helpings — dig in. .

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