Eating Vegetables?

What is there about vegetables that makes them the most rejected category of food? Is it because they’re not sweet, or because of how they look? Whatever the reason, they are the least favorite for many children. Since doctors, nutritionists and parents understand that vegetables are an important source of needed nutrients, the question is: What Can We Do? First, let’s review the general rules for helping children eat healthy. These rulesĀ  apply to all types of food.

  • Introduce a food early. Young children are most open to trying new foods between the ages of 2-4.
  • Introduce the same food frequently (and without comment). Few children try something at the first serving and some take as long as fifteen to twenty times to actually take a taste.
  • Model eating a variety of vegetables. What you eat sets the standard for what is “good”.
  • Serve small amounts on the child’s plate. Two beans, three peas are enough to introduce. It’s always possible to ask for more.
  • Never fix a separate meal for your picky eater. Serve a variety of healthy foods, including a vegetable, and he or she will find something to eat. The child who gets mac and cheese or a “PBJ” sandwich while others are eating meat and vegetables will not learn to eat healthy meals.
  • Never demand or insist. Power struggles over food never lead to any long term success and can sow the seeds for future eating disorders.
  • Read labels in the grocery store. Some products that claim to include vegetables are filled with either sodium or sugar.

There are also other ways to include vegetables without making it an issue. Here are some ideas that have been successful for some parents.

  • Find ways to include a vegetable with other foods. Pureed carrots in mac and cheese, zucchini in muffins are examples.
  • Serve raw vegetables with a dip. Serve cooked vegetables with a dip.
  • Sprinkle vegetables with Parmesan cheese or vinegar.
  • Put out raw or blanched vegetables for snacking while you’re cooking. Hungry children will often experiment.
  • Have children share. In one family, one of the children liked only the top part of the broccoli (she called it the flower) while her brother liked only the stem or stalk.
  • Plant a garden with the child and let them harvest the vegetable.
  • Invite an (admired) older child to dinner-one who eats vegetables.
  • Some vegetables can be pureed. Cauliflower is a good example and can function as a white sauce, or the basis of a cheese sauce.

Let us know what you’ve tried and we’ll pass it on.

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