"EWWW, What's that Green Stuff?!"
BRUSSEL SPROUTS RECIPE FEATURED IN MY BOOK: SECRETS OF A KOSHER GIRL
I would bet that we can all think back to a time where we saw green gunk (AKA a vegetable) on our plate, held our nose, made a face, and exclaimed, “EWWWW!” Okay, maybe the reaction is still a knee-jerk one today. How can we break the cycle and get our kids on board with eating all whole foods, including the bitter veggies?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends vegetable consumption with every meal and snack. Yet, a survey published in May 2017 in Pediatrics, found that most U.S. kids go days without eating one vegetable! About 26 percent of 1-year-olds ate french fries the day before the survey (and considered that a "vegetable"), compared with 7.5 percent who ate dark green vegetables and about 17 percent who ate deep yellow vegetables.
Not only does BWN specialize in a uniquely designed pediatric program, but I have 5 little kiddies myself. We developed “kid-size” methods to help our "ped" clients' caregivers positively encourage healthy eating of all the food groups and here’s some tips you can try too:
- Be an Example. I can’t tell you how many parents come to me and murmur on the sly, “Well, I don’t like it either.” Trust me guys, you are not keeping any secrets around your kids, especially when it comes to food preferences. If you want your kids to eat it, you have to eat it too, so get over it!
- Make it Fun. Whether you’re 6 or 16, all kids enjoy having fun. Don’t think an older child is too mature to enjoy creative ways you serve and display veggies. Try making “veggie fries” like they serve in a restaurant cup, or use colorful plates like the ones we give to our clients click here. Keep in mind that kids are intimidated by new foods, especially veggies that look like a tree (AKA Broccoli), so the more fun the experience, the more at ease they will be to try it.
- Get Them Involved. I’ve had followers comment on my Instagram account (@beth_warren) asking how I “allow” my kids to cook with me in the kitchen when it results in such a mess. While the clean-up is obviously my least favorite part, it is a sure way to get my kids to try what they actually cooked, even if it is just…one bite.
- One Bite Rule. It is a major accomplishment if a child tastes even one bite of a new food and you should celebrate (well, in your head, most kids may get turned off if you make it too big of a deal). I don’t agree with some who recommend not trying this rule. In research and clinically with clients and my own family, I can honestly say if you don’t have guidelines like this in place, the majority of kids will never touch a new food, especially veggies.
- Respect Their Dislikes. This is a tricky one since the second something new hits a child’s tongue, they will say they don’t like it most of the time. I remind kids before they even try a new food that it will taste different on their tongue (especially if they’re used to sweets or a carb-centric diet), but it doesn’t mean they don’t like it. Prepping children by explaining how it will feel in their mouth and tummies helps reduce the anxiety and allows them to give the food a more fair shot by managing expectations. At the same time, if you consistently introduced the food at least 10-14 times (yes, that many!) and your child still claims they don’t like it, respect their taste and go for another of the many of hundreds of veggie options.
The important lesson to heed is that incorporating veggies into your family meals should abide by guidelines just like other household rules. For one, they should always be there consistently so a child expects it (not once in a blue moon and they would magically be excited to eat it); they should know they will try at least one bite; they can respectfully provide feedback that you will listen to without judgement such as, “That’s not my taste…” or, “I like it better when you make it XX way,” along with any other standards that work within your family. Keep at it and don't get discouraged because although they may not end up eating vegetables at a young age, because it was a mainstay in your family, they'll grow up and begin incorporating it into their own.