Children will go through a fussy phase. Sometimes it starts when they see another child (older sibling, friend, cousin, classmate) give the puke face to a certain food. But other times it seems to just come out of nowhere. This is to be expected. We have to remember that children have a a much finer palate than we do as adults. They have twice as many taste buds (or taste bugs, as we call them in our family) so sour tastes sourer and sweet that much sweeter. When you think about it, this evolution in our bodies makes sense. As children, a new plant that might cause severe stomach cramps in an adult could kill a child.
We're told to introduce them as infants to veggies first so they don't get a taste for sweet first, but that is not really true. After all, their first food, breastmilk, is very sweet. It is supposed to be like that. So don't despair if you offered your child fruits before vegetables as an infant. It's never too late. You can (and I feel must) teach your child good eating habits as early as possible but it is never too late.
Children are instinctively curious. If they see you enjoying something, they will enjoy it too. So the first and best way to get veggies into your child is to enjoy and eat them regularly in front of your child. They learn by example.
Kids will often be more apt to try something that they chose. Have them shop for something in your refrigerator or with you online or in the grocery store or farmer's market. Have them help prepare it with you. "I did it!" can help instill a sense of pride in their food; with rave reviews on their cooking, they may willingly give it go.
Some kids grow out of their finicky phase gracefully, but some may never grow out of it so don't wait for it to just happen. We need to insist that they try new foods and we have to try new foods too. Be patient, extremely patient for your must stubborn child, and absolutely lovingly yet firmly insist they must try it. Be prepared. They will make gagging noises, cry, scream, threaten, even all out puke, oh gosh, I've been through it myself too. Just be calm, and be ready to sit there for a half an hour if need be, until they take a bite. It starts small but eventually they will start eating their vegetables and actually enjoy them! Your patience and persistence will impact their future so take a deep breath and do it now, no matter their age.
The day they ASK for a certain vegetable will be a gracious reward for all those painful hours that you will finally be able to look back upon and laugh.
How to get your kids to eat their veggies:
- set a good example
- offer a colorful variety
- offer vegetables at (virtually) every meal and for snacks
- let your child choose what to try
- cook with your kids
- prepare them deliciously - do not overcook
- put it on their plate, at least one tiny piece to start
- be patient, insist that they take a bite, you have all night
- next step is to insist they take at least three bites
- offer it again at another meal maybe prepared differently. Insist that they try a new food at least ten times before they express their displeasure (this is ten times over weeks or months, not all in one day.)
Roasting vegetables is such a simple and delicious way to prepare vegetables.
Here I have some yellow cauliflower and asparagus.
Just put in a pan, don't crowd it, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt, and roast in a preheated 425F oven until it begins to caramelize and brown and until tender, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending upon what you're roasting and how thick it is.
Roasting with oil and salt intensifies the sweet flavors and, as you can see, the colors, of the vegetable.
Any vegetable can be prepared this way: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, leafy greens, really any vegetable, give it a try!
I sometimes sprinkle on some dry spices, like the curry powder I added to the green beans, before tossing it with the olive oil. I think it's important that children try a variety of flavors from spicy to sweet, all within reason of course, and I ask them to try it and give their review (while certain words like gross, disgusting, foul, are off-limits) of that food empowering them in their decision. Yet, they know they will have to try it again one day too. We've talked about how their taste bugs change as they grow up.
Other ways to get veggies into the kids:
- have them available in the fridge: have cleaned carrot and celery sticks in the fridge ready for dipping in a nut butter or ranch dip
- add veggies (even pureed) to breakfast frittatas (we love spinach basil pesto and even my fussiest pickiest worst vegetable eater now loves it! Believe me, I have one and I DO understand. See most post on greens for the recipe.)
- You can add a kale leaf to the breakfast smoothie and they won't even notice. If you add 2 (remove the tough stalk) then it will take on an enticing pale green color.
- Juice with your kids! Kale and Apple are a great combo - have them do a blind taste test at first or use a shot glass to have them gobble it quickly until they realize, hey, this is delicious (because it tastes like sweet apple juice - only it's green! I've even said how they can freak out their friends with their green food the next time they're over.)
- Use veggies to decorate the plate - better yet, have your child do that. Use carrots as legs of animals, make a face with different vegetables.
- Add pureed greens to soups, stews, even baked goods if you want. Add pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Add pureed butternut squash to macaroni and cheese. Make a sauce from pureed veggies. Add pureed veggies to your egg base before making chicken fingers or fish sticks. Add pureed leafy greens to pasta sauce. Casseroles and stews can hide a multitude of healthy veggies. Add tomato paste to ground beef for tacos or meatloaf. Offer a selection of veggies for homemade pizza.
- Get some dried veggies and have fun sampling those.
- Kids may actually eat FROZEN peas cold as a fun treat. (btw, frozen grapes are fun too!)
- Top with melted cheese - melted cheese makes everything delicious.
- Add crunchy bits of bacon - everything is better with bacon.
- Cook in a tablespoon of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
- Teach good nutrition lessons so they know why vegetables are so important. Explain how many we should eat and why. They will eventually hear you and understand it better.
- Play like an animal and have fun eating leaves like a giraffe or a baboon and act them out.
- Include fruits and vegetables in their lunch box.
- Eat dinner as a family, have a good selection of fresh vegetables available, set a good example by eating and enjoying your vegetables yourself.
This is part of Food Renegade's FIGHT BACK FRIDAYS where people who are fighting back against the dominate food culture blog about our adventures in real food including:
- updates & stories about our Real Food journey,
- anything we think others might find useful, helpful, encouraging, or inspiring.