Sunday, February 9, 2014

How To Get Kids To Eat Their Vegetables | #HealthyButJuicy

I just read this story on Reuters Flavor-Pairing May Teach Kids To Like Vegetables. And, meh.

Here are my unsolicited tips (take it or leave it):
  • Cook vegetables in a way that taste good: So good that YOU like eating them yourself, too, and actually do. Forget the vegetables for a second. Kids are heavily (primarily?) influenced by their role models, which includes you (the parent). Don't overanalyze how to get to them to eat vegetables. The problem might be that you might not be eating them either.

  • Really show them your eating vegetable: Ok, so say you really do like eating vegetables and eat a decent portion no less. Kids have short attention spans and get easily distracted. You are a role model, yes, but they're not necessarily watching your every single move. Eat it out— plain and clear. Just like you have to create sentences for them to say to teach them how to speak, the same could go for eating vegetables. If your kid is not eating theyr vegetables, tell them how much you love eating yours. Verbally tell them you're doing it as you are doing it. Chew. Open your mouth and show them how you do it. Swallow. Smile. Verbally tell them how 'yummy' it is.

  • Eat together: Kids love doing things together. As you wrap up the above bullet point, verbally suggest, 'let's eat it together!'. As they pick up their vegetable(s), cheers your forks (or hands). Make it fun and something to celebrate. Because isn't it something to celebrate? :>

  • Let it go and try again... later... and again and again: If all that doesn't work, let it go. Don't force your kid to do something s/he doesn't want to (if it isn't absolutely necessary). Kids are smart and they remember. A) It's not worth the struggle or energy. B) It might leave them with negative associations. C) As the article mentions, it does take several times of offering/tasting before kids will like a food. The number of times it takes varies and can be great [ie. up to 20 times?] but I definitely learned that one in grad school after getting it wrong on a quiz— it's stuck with me ever since. Thanks, Ellyn Satyr. But when the vegetable is available, always offer it to your kid, rather than say, 'O, s/he doesn't like it.' By doing that, you're only reinforcing that belief.

  • Offer variety, offer daily: Do you love every single food that exists? Probably not. Your kids won't either. But the odds of your child not liking every vegetable is silly. Try to figure out different textures and cooking methods of a wide-variety of vegetables— they're bound to like something. Also offer vegetables daily. Be sure to make vegetables a given. Keep dinners, for example, consistent, like carb (rice, bread, pasta), protein (chicken, beef, pork, beans), and vegetable.

  • Be mindful of kids' development, cook appropriately: Be sure to cook or serve vegetables that are somewhat easy (or just easy) for them to chew and swallow. Cook leafy greens soft and cut it up into kid-bite-sized pieces. Peel off the outer layer of broccoli stalks. Yes, by doing so you are losing some fiber and nutrients but this, I think, is more effective than dousing the vegetable(s) in cream cheese, for example, which has an even more canceling/negative effect. Serving vegetables by themselves, I believe, will get kids to like them for 'who' they are vs. masking them in over-poweringly flavored costumes/dress.

  • Take it with a grain of salt: The cohort of the study— that is, the number of people participating in the study— amassed to 29 kids. Twenty-nine. That's not very many kids whatsoever. What other factors could have twisted the results? How did the kids feel about the vegetables by the time they reached adulthood? What culture/environment do these kids/families live in and are they applicable to everyone outside that bubble? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when deciding on the strength of the study and whether you want to apply the results to your own behavior.

I take pics of what I eat. For ideas on meals and portioning, check out my Instagram @mdesenna!

Have some tips of your own? Share them in the Comments below, we'd love to hear! :>

Happy Healthy Juicy Kids Eating Vegetables!

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