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Tag: healthy kids food

How I Try to Get My Boys to Eat Their Veggies

Renee Martinez posted a great article recently on the helpful blog, MothersRaisingBoys, about getting her kids to eat vegetables. I’m excited to have her permission to share it here with you and hope that it can help you with your own quest to raise healthy eaters!

How I Try to Get My Boys to Eat Their Veggies
by Renee Martinez

My 3 year old is not a fan of veggies. Basically if the food has color, he won’t touch it. Unless of course we’re talking about a cookie with colored frosting on it – well now that’s fine for him.

The other day when he refused to eat the one carrot I placed before him, I paused for a moment to reflect on what I had done with the two older boys at this time. They eat their veggies. Or have they always? No. They too initially rejected them…so what did I do?

Then it dawned on me. I told them what any mother would tell her child. If you want you want to become a super hero, you need to go through super hero training. All super heroes are required to eat veggies as part of their training. Green vegetables give you extra points to earn you extra super powers. Of course, how did I forget that!

It really worked with the older two; at least they made me think it worked. Or maybe they ate their veggies just to shut me up. Who knows? Now they even order salads when we go out to eat. They make me proud!

#3 on the other hand is an entirely different breed. He doesn’t seem very willing to give in. I really can’t seem to convince him at all. He just pushes his one sad looking carrot toward me and says, “I no like mommy, I don’t want to eat it.” He’s so cute, what can I possibly say to that cute face?

I bought some yummy carrot soup that I’ve added to things so he doesn’t know he’s eating his vegetables. This works, but it kind of bothers me. Sure he’s eating carrots, but I’m disguising them so he still rejects the real vegetable. It doesn’t seem to help.

When I make dinner, I don’t make special meals for him. What I make is what I expect him to eat. if he chooses not to eat, then he doesn’t eat. I will not make special meals. I know several people who constantly make separate meals for their children. They make wonderful healthy meals for the parents and processed garbage for their children.

When questioned about this, they simply offer that they know their kids won’t like what they make and they don’t to deal with the drama so they make a special meal for the child.

What a pain in the butt!

Since I’m the one making dinner, I’m not interested in spending more time than necessary cooking. So making one meal is practical in terms of time. In terms of the stress-level, sure there are times when one of the boys doesn’t like what I prepared. Sorry. I know they’ll find something on their plate to eat. Once you make one special meal for a child whining about not wanting to eat what you’ve prepared, you’ve set yourself up for having to continue the trend. If on the other hand you resist, you’re children will know that you mean business. They might even taste what you made – and gosh who knows, they might like it!

Kids are smart. They know how to work the system when they see a loophole.

As a side note, #3 ate a bunch of cucumbers tonight with his dinner. He would touch his carrot at lunch, but we’re making small strides toward eating veggies. He may even get approved for super hero status after all.

Shaping lifelong eating habits

The single most common food mistake I see parents make is not exposing kids, preschoolers especially, to a wide range of foods and flavors. Too often I see parents giving their kids the same old “kiddie food” repetoire without ever even offering something different, say, from the adult’s plate.

Last summer I was appalled during a family reunion when my three sisters in-law and I would gather to feed the eight children under 5 years old. My children feasted on leftover turkey enchiladas, sweet and sour meatballs, and broccoli slaw, while the others were only offered food such as sliced deli meats, bread, American cheese slices, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and baby carrots. Most times the other children were not even invited to try the adult food; maybe they would have liked it? We’ll never know.

We do know, however, that it may take 11 or more exposures to a new flavor before it becomes familiar and acceptable. This is why it is so crucial to keep new foods in the rotation. Just because my 5-year old turned his nose up at my mild green chile posole when I originally made it 5 months ago, doesn’t mean that he won’t eat 2 bowls full when I pull it out of the freezer and serve it again.

In our house the rule is that you must eat 3 bites (and swallow them!) of each category on your plate. At that point, if you still don’t like anything that is served, I will prepare an alternative meal. I do realize that not everyone likes everything, and even kids are allowed to have likes and dislikes when it comes to food, but they have to at least try it. Taking at least one bite enters the flavor memory and makes it more likely to be acceptable the next time.

It’s so important to eat a wide range of foods and not get stuck eating the same things over and over. Each whole food offers different nutritional values, and only by getting a variety can we be sure we are providing our bodies with the elements needed for robust health.

Check out Feeding the Kids — a great guide for shaping lifelong healthy eating habits.