Guest Post by Carla Obando, Born Bright Foods
We all know that fruits and veggies are nutritious and important for growing kids, but when you have a picky eater at home it can be challenging to get them to try “the green” things.
Most vegetables have a natural bitter taste and dating back to our hunter and gatherer ancestors, our natural biological response is to associate those flavours with poisonous shrubs, alerting us to danger. Introducing your little ones to different fruits and vegetables right from the start is important in helping them to develop their taste buds. The good news is that it’s not too late to create veggie-loving kids as our palates change roughly every 7 years. Here are five ways that you can make eating veggies fun for your kids.
1) Lead by example.
The first role models that children will have in their lives are their parents. As parents, we are responsible for modelling behaviours and thinking patterns, both of which start at home. Similar to modelling kindness and courage, parents have to lead by example. When parents are eating vegetables in the household, it creates a picture for kids of what is possible. When vegetables are commonly seen and eaten regularly in the home, kids are exposed to the experience and are more likely to try them too.
2) Get them involved in the kitchen or garden.
Research has shown that kids are more likely to try something new or out of their comfort zone when they are involved in the process, whether that be cooking or growing their own vegetables. An excellent way to introduce them to a dish or a specific vegetable is to create different dishes out of the same vegetable. This is a great way to see which cooking method your child enjoys most!
3) Let them help pick out the produce.
When at the grocery store, let them select a different coloured fruit or vegetable to try at home. By letting them pick their produce, you involve them in the decision-making process and provide them with autonomy which empowers them. You can also let them select which seasoning blends to add to their veggies or dishes to flavour them. This also gives them exposure to cooking with different ingredients, herbs and spices.
4) Create a happy atmosphere during mealtimes.
Create a happy atmosphere by making veggie meals and snacks more interactive. Add their favourite vegetables into their favourite dishes, or create a colourful dip for their veggies. Kids love using dips such as hummus, ranch, guacamole, or nut butter.
5) Don’t give up on them!
Try, try, and try again! Research shows that you need to introduce a single new food at least 8-10 times before a child can determine whether or not that food is for them. Exposure to a single food item does not necessarily mean consuming the item, exposure to new foods can also mean just having your kids visibly see the new food at the dinner table, or smell the food at home.
Don’t feel bad if your child hates or avoids any form of vegetable on their plate – you’re not alone! It’s very common for kids to experience an aversion to certain foods. With patience, understanding, and embracing that enjoying your veggies is a learning process, you can slowly create a veggie-loving kid.
Carla Obando is a pediatric dietitian and founder of Born Bright Foods, a line of fresh baby food and toddler meals that provide fresh and nutritious baby meals for modern parents. Learn more at www.bornbrightfoods.com.