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How to get kids to eat more fruit: Sharpen your knives!

images-3.jpegI was tickled to see news today of a study that found kids will eat twice as much fruit when it’s cut into fun shapes. In the study, children aged 4 to 7 were allowed to eat from two platters, one with normal, unprepared fruit and the other with visually appealing cut fruit. Guess which was more popular?

This is probably not a shock to anyone spending time with the under-10 set, but I have to admit, “fun food” is a trick I put away when my kids grew out of toddlerhood (and didn’t stretch beyond the occasional smiley-open-faced PB&J and teddy bear–shaped pancake).

Now that my 6- and 9-year-old are pickier by the day, this news inspires me to inject a little of the show-woman (or fancy caterer, at least) into my food prep. Good tools: sharpened knives, a melon baller, peeler, zester/grater, maybe even a mandolin for those wonderful thin slices. Try different colors and shapes--mango or papaya and pomegranate seeds or kiwi slices. Try making skewers or concentric rings or shapes on a plate.

When buying fruit and vegetables for your children, be sure first to consult the Environmental Working Group’s latest “clean” and “dirty” lists to find out which produce items have been found to contain the most and least amounts of pesticide residues.

And once you’ve practiced your fruit and veggie sculpting techniques, here are a few other tips to try:

* Cut sandwiches into shapes with cookie-cutters.

* Spread tortillas with hummus, guacamole, or reduced-fat Neufchatel cheese, along with colorful veggies and meat or cheese if desired. Roll tightly and slice; spread out “pinwheels” on the plate.

* Follow this recipe for a healthier PB&J and make the traditional smiley face with banana and other favorite ingredients.

Check out our article on cooking for picky eaters , and Mollie Katzen's article on veggies kids will love

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