Do you experience daily battles over broccoli? The tumult over tomatoes? Arguments about arugula? Crying over carrots?
If so, you’re like thousands of other parents that deal with mealtime fights with their young children!
We’ve all heard the centuries-old advice: Just keep exposing your children to healthy, nutritious foods, and they’ll eat healthy too.
However, once you have children of your own, you may find that instilling healthy eating habits in children is easier said than done! And there seems to be one food group that many children seem to have issues with: vegetables!
Vegetables are great nutritional sources because many of them are low in fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol. They are substantial sources of key nutrients such as potassium, fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
For some reason, sensitivity to a food’s taste, smell, and texture seems to start very early on in a child’s life. From the first moments, after a baby enters the world, the newborn will prefer sweet, rich flavor over anything else! This is very likely a biological response to help newborns respond positively to the sweet flavor of breastmilk. Another safety mechanism most likely originating from Mother Nature is a baby’s natural propensity to avoid bitter tastes, which at one point in time probably helped children avoid accidentally ingesting poisonous plants in the age before baby food was invented!
Here are a few tips and tricks to make eating veggies easier for everyone in the family!
When it comes to eating vegetables, parents must learn the value of repeated exposure. Just like exposure therapy can help adults overcome a multitude of lifelong fears, consistently exposing kids to vegetables can make them less afraid of trying them. Make a point to incorporate a vegetable into each meal, even if it stays on the plate untouched. Try to avoid letting picky eaters simply remove the unwanted item from their plate and discarding it - encourage them to keep it on their plate, just in case they decide to taste it!
Children can become easily overwhelmed by large portion sizes. Instead of demanding that your preschooler eat 6 slices of roasted carrots, start with 1 or 2. Instead of telling your child he needs to eat 15 peas, start with just 1. Instead of eating a whole ear of corn on the cob, ask your child to just take one bite. Starting small could even mean merely touching or smelling the food. These small practices eventually lead to larger victories.
There are so many ways to serve vegetables! Don’t limit yourself by always serving vegetables steamed or pureed. Some children prefer the taste and texture of diced, oven-fried vegetables, while others like theirs sauteed in a stir-fry. Riced or spiralized vegetables are also enticing to children (some common ones served this way are zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower, and broccoli). You can also use cookie cutters to cut vegetables into fun shapes. Adding a little butter or cheese never hurt anyone, either!
Celebrate progress, no matter how small. Younger children respond well to sticker charts or rewards systems. Even if you’re just celebrating the fact that your little one didn’t gag on that first bite of broccoli, lots of praise and attention can mean the world to your child! Trying new things is hard, and it’s important to help children know how much you appreciate every small step they make in the right direction.
One mistake many parents make when it comes to serving vegetables is avoiding flavor! For some reason, we naturally assume that bland is more palatable. But this isn’t the case with every child! Some children prefer flavors on their vegetables, such as salt, butter, black pepper, lemon juice, or parsley. Some even prefer a little spice to their meals - just don’t overdo it! Use caution when it comes to using salt with young children, as they are sensitive to sodium. Teach your children that it’s ok to experiment with different flavors!
Kids can be more receptive to trying new foods if they’re allowed to be part of the cooking process! Even young children can help prepare nutritious meals. Toddlers and preschoolers can help wash produce and carefully chop soft foods using a plastic butter knife. Young children can also help stir or pour ingredients. Take your little ones along on your next shopping adventure and let them pick some new vegetables to try - they might surprise you!
It might be unproductive to “hide” vegetables in your child’s food, such as pureeing vegetables into spaghetti sauce or sneaking extra carrots or broccoli into meatballs, or serving cauliflower rice as if it’s regular white rice. If you try to be sneaky about forcing your children to eat vegetables, they may grow to distrust you when it comes to trying new foods. It’s always more productive to be open and honest about what your child is eating!
Trying new foods can be an excellent learning adventure for the whole family! Take your child with you on your next grocery outing, and let them pick a few new foods to try - including several vegetables. Have your child discuss the vegetable’s color, shape, size, and weight, and what she thinks it might taste like (Spicy? Crunchy? Mild?). Teach your child a little bit about what vitamins and nutrients are in certain vegetables, and why color makes a difference. Help your child learn how to tell when a vegetable is ripe and ready to eat, and what it looks like if it has spoiled. Allow your child to help prepare the vegetable for a meal by doing things like washing, drying, cutting, stirring, or seasoning the food. Learning about new foods can be fun and can help your child become more excited about tasting new things!
Don’t forget, the KeaBabies Silicone Bibs are the perfect addition to any toddler’s mealtime fun! They protect against accidental spills and are comfy enough so your child won’t try to yank it off during his meal! We hope by using our quality KeaBabies products, you’re able to create wonderful moments with your families!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
|I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.|