Winning the Battle of the Vegetables
If your kid is like most children over the age of two, getting them to eat vegetables is almost impossible. No matter how much you beg and plead, two peas can take hours of pouting at the table before it goes down their throats.
No one wants to have to battle their children this way, but choosing between their emotional health and their physical wellbeing is something parents have to face every day. It's no wonder that scientists have been working hard to figure out why children hate vegetables so much, and what can be done to get them to eat more of the good stuff while their brains are still developing. Here are their top 3 tips, backed by science:
Not exactly the advice you want to hear, but “feed often and early” is the recommendation from a 2014 study conducted by the University of Leeds. Before the age of two, children are much more open to trying new foods. Exposing them to new foods at this age makes them more likely to try more and different vegetables as adults, as well as to eat more as they grow older.
Children may need to be exposed to a vegetable 10 or more times before they'll try it, and they'll need to continue being exposed to it in order to eat more of it. While your daughter might snub two peas today, eventually she may eat 5 or 6, and that number will grow with time.
Five or six peas is not a serving, but it is helping them to develop their taste buds, which will benefit them later in life.
Kids that are taught about the food pyramid, and who looked at and understood what healthy eating was, ate slightly more vegetables than those who didn't. While the difference between an educated kid and a non-educated kid is about a singular baby carrot, it's one more baby carrot than was there before.
Change the names
One study looking at college students found that changing the name of a vegetable dish greatly increased how many students chose to eat them. Dressing up the name for your kids works just as well. It's not just carrots, it's X-ray Vision Carrots. It's not just peas. It's Princess Peas.
The food industry uses crazy names to catch the attention of children all the time. It's high time we chose to use the same tricks to get them back. Similar research has also found that vegetables presented alongside cartoon characters were more popular than granola bars—as long as they had to wait 5 minutes if they really wanted it.
As shocking as it may seem, avoiding vegetables is normal in children. Be patient, and your kids will eventually come around to eating them—with a little help that is. There's still no magic pill for getting kids to eat their leafy greens, or even a carrot or two, but these three tips will help.