Spinach, Broccoli, Beets & Cauliflower: Tips for Getting Your Children To Eat Those Vegetables  

Sunday, January 20, 2008

By Barbara A. Clark
The Spirited Strider

Do you struggle with getting your children to eat those healthy vegetables? Here are ten tips I found to be successful in raising two children who now eat most vegetables, regularly have soup and salads with their meals and are open to new foods.

1. Start early. Recent research by Forestell & Mennella published in the December, 2007 edition of Pediatrics indicates that breastfed babies whose mothers eat certain foods consistently will more likely have children who later accept these same foods once weaned. So if you eat healthy vegetables while you're breastfeeding, chances are that your baby will recognize the taste later and enjoy it, too.

2. Introduce the vegetables with a positive attitude. A recent study by Lumeng & Cardinal published online on the May 17, 2007 edition of Chemical Senses found that serving foods with a positive message increases the ability of the child to better remember the taste and to rate it higher in taste value. So remember to say, "Yummy!" when serving those vegetables and serve with a smile.

3. Always introduce vegetables before fruits. It's human nature to love sweet tasting things, so when introducing your baby to solid foods, start with vegetables first. One vegetable at a time is a good idea. Tip: Don't start with peas or carrots: they are naturally sweet so your child will probably love them anyway.

4. Be patient, consistent and persistent. If your baby makes a face when you serve that spoonful of green beans into his or her mouth, don't give up! Be patient. Your baby will eat it eventually. Too often parents get frustrated or are in a hurry so they move on to the fruit. Take your time and try again.

5. As children get older, make it a habit to start your largest meal with a home-made soup made of nutritious vegetables. If there is a vegetable that your child doesn't like, consider putting the soup into a blender and making a puree out of it. You can always reserve some veggies that the kids love and add to the puree when you serve it. My children loved potatoes and carrots, so I would reserve a few to add to the puree to make it look appetizing. My kids always loved the soups I made, and little did they know they had vegetables that they normally would not eat alone.

6. Be a good role model. Don't start the habit of serving different menus for everyone in your household as you'll end up with a household of picky eaters (and give yourself a whole lot of extra work on top of it!). If you expect your child to eat the vegetables, you should be eating them, too. Children learn from their parents, so model the behavior you wish to produce in your child.

7. Involve your children in the meal-making process. This is a wonderful family-bonding time and children love pretending their grown-up. Being a part of the process increases the chances that your kids will eat it later, too.

8. If you must, find creative ways to "decorate" your vegetables by creating artwork out of the food.

9. Serve salads regularly with your meals and introduce your kids to low fat dressings at an early age.

10. If you garden, involve your children in the entire process of tilling, planting, and picking the wonderful vegetables. They will be more excited about eating the finished product and it's a great family bonding time, too!

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