According to research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, preschoolers ate 80 percent more broccoli when it was served with a dip instead of plain. Less than half of children aged 2 to 5 and only 5 percent to 10 percent of children aged 4 to 8 eat the recommended amount of 1-1 1 2 cups vegetables each day.

Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, phytochemicals and vitamin C.

If vegetables are so good for us, why don?t our kids eat them? Blame it on their taste buds and their genes. A study published in 2005 by researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia suggests that a gene called TAS2R38 may be responsible for children's dislike of bitter flavors often found in vegetables. About 80 percent of children possess the bitter-sensitive gene, but that doesn?t mean your kids will never eat vegetables.

We know that repeatedly offering vegetables to our children helps them learn to eat - and enjoy - these healthy foods. Encouraging kids to taste a wide variety of vegetables gives them the opportunity to try different foods and ultimately make them a part of their daily diet. Over time, our sensitivity to bitter-tasting vegetables decreases, and as long as we've developed a habit of eating vegetables with meals and snacks, we?ll continue to eat them as adults.


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Plus kids like to use their hands to eat, and what could be more fun and hands-on than dipping small pieces of raw or lightly cooked vegetables into a tasty dip? Make snack time fun by choosing different colors of vegetables with your child: offer red peppers or tomato wedges, green broccoli or snap peas, or white jicama or mushrooms. Include crunchy vegetables along with a bowl of dip with lunch and dinner and you may find you eat more vegetables yourself. Try these delicious, healthy and kid-friendly dips and watch the vegetables disappear ? into your child's waiting stomach.

Mix taco seasonings into low-fat plain yogurt; use Greek-style yogurt for more protein.

Purchase hummus, or make your own using chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon juice. Even young children can mash the chickpeas with a fork or stir in the tahini, and children are much more willing to eat foods they help prepare.

Guacamole made from avocado and lime juice is a good source of healthy fats and vitamin C.

Ranch dressing is a perennial kid-favorite. Purchase lower fat Ranch dressing, or make your own from a powdered mix with plain non-fat Greek yogurt for a boost of protein and calcium.

Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. Her grown-up boys still enjoy dipping carrots into Ranch dressing.