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Child choosing vegetablesMy eldest two daughters, now 15 and 11, always ate vegetables, unless my memory is worse than I think and/or I'm kidding myself.  They certainly enjoy their vegetables very much now.  "Let's just order a pizza or get some fish and chips" I say, exhausted and not in the mood for mess, and they plead for me to cook them vegetables.  I'm not joking, it's really true.  The only issue I have is that one doesn't like zucchini, which is one of my favourites.

But my little ones, 2 and 3 years old, are not great veggie eaters.  What did I do differently?  Where did I go wrong?

They do, however, like to touch, hold, discuss and identify the vegetables.  But my son will not even allow them to touch his plate.  Not even the ever-favourite pumpkin.  He won't even taste it.

As little babies they ate veggies, and lots of them.  Their father would make great batches of home made baby food which we would freeze in little servings.  It would have pumpkin, potato, broccoli, carrots, and all sorts of lovely things good for little babies.  We incorporated beef mince into it too.

But when they get to the age where they want to hold the spoon themselves, and no longer need everything mashed up, it gets tricky.

As best I can remember, at this age with my older girls, I pretty much gave them family food, but cut into bite sized pieces.  I figured that with enough different things on their plate, they would have to find something they would eat.  They particularly liked lamb chops, but would also quite happily eat potato, pumpkin, broccoli, corn and so on.

I think it was most likely taking the easy way too frequently which sent us the wrong way in the veggie department.  The freezer section of the supermarket got hold of me when I was tired (from anaemia) and there was a spell where they would eat practically nothing but 2 minute noodles for dinner.

For breakfast and lunch we did better, sticking with wheat biscuits, and sandwiches made only with wholemeal bread (my kids have rarely seen white bread and I'm proud of it).

Now that they are all talking well, I feel like I'm getting a second chance, and the eating habits are improving.  All three are starting to try new things, though still few if any veggies touching my boy's lips.  These are the things I think are having a positive influence:-

- Having the kids help with shopping or at least unpacking the shopping.  They love to look at all the fruit and vegies laid out on the kitchen bench as you're putting it away, touching and feeling the produce, naming it, saying what colour it is, how we prepare it, what it's like (crunchy, sweet, soft etc).  This way they're at least familiar with the stuff, and you have it in the house, which is also kind of a basic necessity.

-Letting them watch you prepare meals.  Again, they like to ask or tell you what each type of food is, talk about it, say what colour it is and so on.  They are interested in what you are doing and know you are doing it for them and for yourself.

- Having their meals served whenever possible as part of a larger family meal, whether that's just you and your child eating together, or a large gathering at the table.  Seeing what you and everybody else are eating can help, presuming everyone else is eating something good. 

- Offering a variety of things at each meal time, some things you know they are likely to eat, and some different things you would like them to eat too.  You never know when you might get lucky.  I've had one twin try the corn and refuse the potato, and the other do the exact opposite.  It's mystifying.

- Remember, they can't prefer to eat what they've never seen, so if you never bring chicken nuggets into the house, that's one thing you'll never have to worry about!  What would a child eat who has only ever seen good wholesome natural food? 

- Don't let them fill up on milk and snacks before their meal time.  I've been guilty of this when I've been busy working and trying to keep them quiet.

-Have veggies out as a snack often, for yourself or other family members or guests.  Don't even offer it to the kids - just watch them get curious.  Small pieces of carrot, celery, zucchini etc to dip into hommos, tzatziki or baba ghanoush are appealing.

-Whenever you are doing party or picnic food, always include some fruit and veggies.  Fruit platters with easy to eat, bite sized pieces of lots of different fruits will encourage them to try different things. 

-Remember, beans are good food!  Any kind of beans.  I've only started eating them myself the last few years, and have had absolutely no luck getting the kids to eat baked beans or cannelini beans or red kidney beans or butter beans or chick peas etc, but I keep putting them out, hoping.  Mixed beans make a great baked potato topping.  It's meat free, guilt free protein with all the good stuff!

-Don't forget the old hidden veggies trick.  Pasta sauces, meatloaf, potato fritters, tempura, patties - all great places to hide veggies.

-If all else fails, tell yourself tomato sauce is a vegetable and try not to worry!  You can get fibre and vitamins into them with whole grains and fruit too.

-If they don't eat veggies now, consider it a short term phase, and don't give into it.  Don't talk about how they don't like veggies.  Keep having veggies around in as many ways as possible, keep trying different ways of preparing them, and one day they will try them.  If you give up, you risk them going out into the world as adults who won't eat veggies.  I once worked in an office with a man in his 30s who's mother rang him at work to ask what he wanted for dinner, and it didn't include vegetables.  Does this sound like someone who's going to get a date soon?  Don't molly coddle them with food.  Offer good food, then leave it up to them.  If it becomes a control thing for them or an emotional issue, that's not what we want.

 

Comments   

#2 virginia 2008-07-24 01:06
I too have tried all methods and tricks of getting my kids to eat vegies with varying levels of success. Two of the more successful have been serving peas and beans frozen - they are like iceblock lollies and the other is to have an endless supply of wooden skewers and thread everything - yes everything!! I did peas once and they loved it - mind you the dinner preparation was rather lengthy that night!! :-)
#1 Sabine Hoskins 2008-05-16 01:32
:-) I really enjoyed reading this article- at least you don't tell people they are a BAD parent because their kid doesn't eat veggies. I did pretty much the same thing as you with my daughter and she loves to have a meal of cucumber slices, baby tomatoes, carrot sticks and feta cheese!!!!

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