Why do we as parents feel so desperate to get our kids to eat this colourful range of nature’s food and feel like utter failures when they don’t?
We are all brought up know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. We learn that they are nature’s vitamin box. Carrots help us see and an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Eat your broccoli and peas and you will definitely be in line to grow up strong and fit like Superman. Let’s not forget Popeye and his magic spinach. So no matter what our feelings about these foods, we really want our kids to eat them. Therein can lie the first problem.
Problem: It is difficult to entice your child into eating something that you don’t particularly like.
Solution: Reconnect with nature and learn to enjoy the fruits and vegetables you want your children to eat by finding new and exciting ways to prepare and eat them.
Problem: You might enjoy vegetables so much that you can’t believe your child doesn’t like them.
Children and particularly toddlers and preschoolers can ‘smell’ out manipulation opportunities and if we have ever offered food bribes for eating vegetables then they will milk this for all its worth.
Solution: Avoid rewarding children for eating fruit and vegetables, it sends the message that fruit and veggies are the ‘ horrible food’ that they must suffer through and ice cream, jelly tots and smarties are the real hero’s. Let’s find ways to hero the fruit and vegetables.
Problem: Changing tastebuds
A baby has a range of developing taste buds and they increase in number and variety as a baby matures. So initially there are not sufficient taste buds in the bitter sphere to taste the ‘hidden bitterness’ of vegetables. Then suddenly those taste buds increase and the gentle and bland broccoli flavour suddenly tastes bitter. This happens at the same time a child is exposed to more ‘junk food’ options from school, play dates and birthday parties. At the same time, they are developing their sense of self and ego and realize they have a say and especially when it comes to food.
Solution:Find ways to incorporate the fruit and vegetables into dishes that they do enjoy like muffins, fritters, spaghetti bolognaise and homemade crumbed chicken. Smoothies are a lovely way to incorporate both fruit and vegetables.
Over time through regular intake and tasting of these fruit and vegetables in hiding – the taste buds will get used to the more pronounced flavours and eventually they will be able to come out of hiding and be more readily accepted!
So be creative, but keep it simple, lead by example and this too will pass!
Kath Megaw (BSc Dietetics Hons, Diploma Paediatric Dietetics) holds four medical qualifications including a paediatric dietetic qualification from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Balitmore, USA. She has been published in the Epilepsia journal on the use of the paediatric ketogenic diet in third-world settings and frequently speaks to groups of both professionals and parents on infant and childhood nutrition. Kath is the author of Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children (Quivertree Publications), the co-author of Feeding Sense (Metz press), The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics (Quivertree Publications),as well as co-author of Weaning Sense and Allergy Sense (Quivertree Publications). Kath has been in private practice for over 18 years and is the founder of Nutripaeds, a paediatric dietetic practice.
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