Eat Your Veggies! | Seventh Generation
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Eat Your Veggies!

Author: RealMomofNJ

I think it's safe to say that most parents want their kids to be great, healthy eaters. Unfortunately, healthful foods like veggies get a bad rap and parents don't expect, or know how to get their kids on board. I refused to believe that I had to feed my kids a strict diet of mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. My kids would love vegetables! My kids would eat everything!


I'm proud to report that they do, in fact, love vegetables and eat everything. But it certainly wasn't as easy as just throwing down some chow and watching them happily gobble it up. Getting them on board with healthy foods was a process starting from Day 1, and I can tell it'll be under construction for the rest of their lives.


So, what did I do to instill a love of veggies in my kids? What can you do? There are plenty of approaches you can take and none are as difficult or tricky as you might think.


Some physicians theorize that breastfed babies tend to be less picky than formula-fed babies because they are used to the varying taste of breast milk. As opposed to formula, which is bland and always tastes the same, breast milk's flavor is affected by what mom eats.


Make your baby's first solid a vegetable.
There is some speculation that introducing fruits as your baby's first solids can encourage them to develop a sweet tooth and will affect their willingness to accept vegetables, which are much less sweet and even bitter. While there is no hard-and-fast rule on the order in which you should introduce foods, I always thought the veggies-first strategy made a lot of sense. Both of my kids love veggies, so I'm inclined to think this strategy works.


Try and try again.
It can take baby or child multiple tries to accept a food. So even if they make a terrible face and fling their carrots at you today, it doesn't mean you won't get better results if you try again in a week or two. I tried avocado—a popular favorite of babies—9 times over 2 months with my daughter before she stopped spitting it out. My husband asked if I'd ever give up. I'm glad I didn't, because now avocados are one of her favorite snacks.


Try different preparations and spices.
There are many ways to prepare vegetables (or not. Plenty of vegetables are delicious raw!), and they all affect the taste of the finished product. Just because your kids don't like steamed broccoli doesn't mean they won't like broccoli in a stir-fry or sprinkled with cheese. Try roasting vegetables with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for some extra flavor. Or, try mixing them into casseroles or other dishes. My daughter hates spinach alone, but she'll eat it no problem in a frittata.


Offer a variety.
There are a lot of vegetables out there. If your kids aren't fans of what you've put before them so far, try something new. And you never know, this might expand your diet as well. We're now a parsnip-loving family, all because I bought them to feed to the baby.


Don't overwhelm or offer substitutes.
Don't turn yourself into a short-order cook trying to find veggies (or any food) that your kids will consume. Offer 1 or 2 veggies at a meal—generally whatever you're making for yourself. If they don't like or want to eat them, fine. You can try again another time. But if your child refuses what you've served, don't give them a tried-and-true favorite instead. This can just reinforce that they really don't have to try anything new. In other words, "It's OK if you don't want to eat this broccoli, but you're not getting hot dogs instead."


Get your kids involved.
Studies have shown that kids are more inclined to eat foods they've helped prepare. So bring your child to the store to help pick out the produce for the week, and then have them help you prepare it. An easy way to have them participate is to ask them to put the cut veggies in the pot for steaming, or to help lay them out on a baking sheet for roasting. 


Don't yell.
I have yet to meet a child who ate all of their veggies because their parent yelled at them. Vegetables can be an acquired taste (especially strong-flavored or bitter veggies like Brussels sprouts and asparagus), meaning you grow to like them over time. Be encouraging, not demanding. Your child may legitimately not like something, and that's OK. Your goal is to identify what they like, not force them to eat what they don't.


Above all, be patient. It can take time to find the right combination of flavors to whet your child's appetite and help them get on board with vegetables.


Photo: Martin Cathrae


happy2gether picture
Starting from the first time they eat solids, feed them your food! As long as its not junk of course. But, give them a strip of steak to chew on, some pieces of vegetable or fruit, etc. Whatever you or their older sibling are eating. Its called baby led solids. When they beg/whine for your food, give it to them! That is their instinct to ask and it's your instict to hand it to them. No they wont choke!! The best option for a first food is mashed egg yolk with breastmilk if you feel the need to make something. Check out the Weston A Price Foundation's info on feeding babies! Another good option is avocado. And of course season it as you would your own- unrefined salt, pepper, ETC!
spring13 picture
I have to agree with evangeliaa, you can do all these things and not always succeed. My daughter is 2.5 and stubborn as heck. If she doesn't want to eat something, insisting that she just taste it doesn't help: she won't do it, end of story. She's like that even with things she usually eats, if she doesn't feel like it she won't touch it. So while she often does eat her veggies nicely (a chunk of pepper usually works), I do resort to things like chocolate zucchini muffins. And she'll eat almost anything in chip form, including beets and kale. But i also spend quite a bit of time freaking out and praying that she'll be better about it when she's older.
auntjane7975 picture
I did not want my kids to make ugly faces at the food that I prepared for them. So I came up with the idea from somewhere that they had to at least try the food before making a comment. There are times that a child will see how something is prepared and decide that they don't like it simply because of what they see in it. They are also affected by what they hear. My husband and I never said in front of the boys, "I don't like that" So my boys were not preconditioned to not like something. I made it a practice that if my boys made a face they had to eat a normal serving for their age at the time. If it was the first time I gave them that veggie I gave them a small portion. Approx. 2 bites. If they liked it they would ask for more. I found out from a friend that they did what I did but she called it a "No thank you helping" so I adopted that name. If they said no thank you I gave them the small serving. One day when my 2nd son was about 14 or so and we had company, he asked for a second "no thank you helping" of Brussel spouts. I said "Oh do you like them now?" He said "no, I am still hungry and that is all that is left". When kids know that they can get something in place of the good food they will go for what they want. If they hear their parents say "I don't like that" they will think that they don't like it. My boys are men now and they eat good food. They like fresh garden veggies. Now my second son still does not like brussel sprouts. I did not like oatmeal when I was young but when I applied this rule to my boys I made myself abide by it. When they wanted oatmeal for breakfast, I ate my small portion of oatmeal. Note that I had to have more than 2 bites if it would stay with me till lunch. I always mentioned it to them that Mom had her no thank you helping of oatmeal.
Jude113 picture
It also helps to feed your children their veggies when they are actually hungry. My girls(1,3 &5) get at least 2 veggies and 1 fruit with dinner and I always give them their veggies first, when they are hungriest. Also, my 3 & 5 year old do not get snacks between meals, so at dinner time they are truly hungry. If they are still hungry after a child size serving of a main course, I offer additional veggies from the fridge/freezer.
evangeliaa picture
And it drives me nuts. I appreciate all the advice I have gotten, and being a student of nutritional science, this is a very sensitive and important topic to me. So I just want the moms out there whose children only want to eat "unhealthy" foods, don't beat yourself. To the author, I am very happy and simultaneously that your children eat so well, but for those of you who followed all of the above directives, as I have and still do daily, just be patient. My 19 month old (breastfed until she was 13 months old) was a great eater until her first birthday. Now she eats chicken nuggets bc I cannot get her to consume any other fish or animal protein. I hate it, but at least she is getting nutrients. So to the author, just a note that not all children will follow these directives no matter what, and chicken nuggets and grilled cheese are better than not eating at all! Patience and guidance are key.
RealMomofNJ picture
I also grew up with the "take one bite" rule and apply that to my daughter as well. We tell her, "You don't have to like it, but you do have to taste it." That's so cute that your daughter quotes your "tastes buds change" line. :)
mhiinnkeeper picture
Wonderful article.....and SO TRUE! I was blessed with one child at the later age of thirty seven and knew one child was all I'd have. So, in my heart I've always known that raising my now ten year old blessing of a daughter is ULTIMATELY important, with "getting it right the first time" continually ringing true in my ears. As my parents did, as my daughter has grown up, I've made it "the rule ": "You have to try one bite." I am proud to say that my daughter now eats pretty much EVERYTHING, except maybe liver, which I, myself, usually save enjoying eating out in a restaurant so no one has to be subjected to eating it, if they don't care to (like my 59 year old husband who KNOWS if he does or does not like a food!). BUT, I'll still have my daughter try "just one bite", to make sure I'm giving her a "fair" chance to learn to eat such a tasty treat. I've heard it said: "Taste buds change every three years." Never have researched this idea, but I like to think it's true! Whatever the case, it's something my daughter quotes REGULARLY, as she comes home from a day at school, explaining how her lunch-time friends did not like something my daughter had taken in her lunch. Her usual comment: "Oh well! If they don't care for it, it 's just more for me! Maybe their taste buds will change!" Gotta love her!