#5: Stop focusing on the bite.
Too much emphasis on “Try it, you’ll like it!” makes that first taste seem like a really big deal to kids. Try not to emphasize eating vegetables, but instead focus on the Three E’s: Expose, Explore, Expand. Research has shown that when we expose our kids to new foods (specifically veggies via gardening, farmers markets, sensory play and science experiments), it sparks their interest in learning more about that food. It increases their comfort level before they ever consider taking a bite.
#4: Expose kids to vegetables via food play.
Line up green beans to make giant tic-tac-toe boards and use orange carrot shreds and purple rainbow carrot coins for the Xs and Os. Be creative! Research shows when there is no pressure to take a bite, kids take a bite when you least expect it. After the game, encourage kids to help rinse the vegetables and add them to a veggie stir fry or a soup. You’re fostering a friendship with vegetables by including veggies in daily play.
#3: Explore simple recipes with your kids.
Nothing fancy — just easy, fun, quick recipes that get kids in the kitchen interacting with zucchini, carrots, squash and more. Studies have proven that when kids prep food in the kitchen with their parents, even assembling a simple crudité, they are more likely to taste that food. The more you cook together, the more opportunities for exploration and the likely the kids are to discover that vegetables can be quite yummy!
#2: Expand to recipes that are new for you, too.
When trying a brand new recipe together, even a fancy one that might feel quite daring, like a multi-layered vegetable lasagna, it’s not about the end product. Taste-testing is an integral part of learning to love any new recipe. Keep some of the vegetables, cheese and cooked noodles separate for tasting. Teach your kids that the first taste might not be the most delicious, but together you can figure out what would make it suit your palate. Perhaps more basil? How about a little more cheese? When kids see you tasting and adjusting the recipe as you cook, they learn that not every taste is the best taste. We must keep adapting and keep tasting. It’s a good idea to reserve some of the “deconstructed” lasagna to serve next to the completed dish. Kids will often try each ingredient before tasting a piece of the lasagna, because it helps them determine what will be inside and how the flavors might blend together in their mouth.
And the #1 tip for helping kids love vegetables?
#1: Parent patiently.
Learning to love a variety of foods, especially vegetables, takes time. Kids learn any kind of skill — whether it be soccer, dance, math or adventurous eating — by repetitive and positive practice as they grow. Keep exposing! Keep exploring! Keep expanding your child’s food experiences via gardening, cooking, shopping and fun veggie activities. You’re creating family memories and healthy eating that will last a lifetime. Read: 7 Tips If You’re Struggling With a Picky Eater
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, is an international speaker on the topic of feeding babies, toddlers, and school-age kids. She is the co-author of the award-winning Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015) and Baby Self-Feeding: Solutions for Introducing Purees and Solids to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits (2016). The tips in her latest book, Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes (2018) are based on the latest research and Melanie’s 20 years of success as a pediatric feeding therapist. Melanie’s advice has been shared in a variety of television and print media, including The New York Times, CNN.com, Huffington Post and Parents Magazine. Visit her at www.MelaniePotock.com for more articles, professional tips, and helpful videos to raise your adventurous eater!
- Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables―with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes
- Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating
- Exposure to foods' non-taste sensory properties. A nursery intervention to increase children's willingness to try fruit and vegetables
- ‘Finish your soup’: Counterproductive effects of pressuring children to eat on intake and affect
- Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake.
- A step-by-step introduction to vegetables at the beginning of complementary feeding. The effects of early and repeated exposure.
- Feel your food. The influence of tactile sensitivity on picky eating in children.
- Increasing children's acceptance of vegetables; a randomized trial of parent-led exposure.
- Trying versus Liking Fruits and Vegetables: Correspondence between Mothers and Preschoolers
- Picky eating, pressuring feeding, and growth in toddlers
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