Coaxing Your Child To Eat Vegetables – Does It Work?

Everyone knows eating several helpings of vegetables every day makes a healthier food plan, but unfortunately, children don’t see the wisdom in eating veggies. You might not be able to sell your kids on eating every vegetable-Brussels sprouts, green beans or turnips, but you can by-pass their resistance with a few simple strategies.

1. When you begin serving your child solid food-introduce your child to fresh cooked vegetables puréed in a blender instead of canned baby food. It is 100% better for your child. Using canned baby food introduces them to a sugared version of vegetables, thus their palate is accustomed to that taste and then they will reject the fresh cooked variety.

A child who’d rather go hungry than eat lima beans will eat one vegetable-you simply need to find the one she/he will eat. Offer the same vegetable three or four days in a row-if your child consistently rejects it, serve another one until you hit on one she/he will eat.

Although, Juices are a fast, easy way to knock out one serving of vegetables (6 ounces of 100 percent juice), it is still processed food. Therefore, use this method sparingly.  Using a juicer and making fresh vegetable juice for the entire family is ideal and healthier than eating only cooked veggies.

2. Fly under their taste bud rejection.

Vegetables don’t have to be green to be nutritious. Sweet potatoes and squash are high in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin B6-plus, they’re tough to resist with a little honey or real maple syrup. Carrots, (the best source for beta-carotene, which also contains disease-fighting flavonoids) are more palatable with a little honey or real maple syrup. Peas are fun to eat with fingers-you can dub it ‘finger food.’

3. Relax-your child will eventually learn to eat a variety of vegetables.

Surprisingly, my children loved broccoli and ate it exclusively until they were ten or eleven-no matter how I attempted to convince them that green beans, cabbage, spinach were a ‘must have.’ As adults they eat a variety of vegetables, which is proof in the pudding that children given the opportunity to ‘choose’ what they like and don’t like will eventually add variety.

Children don’t usually like dark leafy greens with other raw vegetables as salad, unless it is sprinkled with something interesting-such as mandarin orange slices, fresh berries, almond slices, and a light vinaigrette dressing.

4. Last but not least, set an example.

Eat what you’d like your kids to eat. If all else fails, they can at least take comfort that you’re willing to do the right thing, too. Even if they’re picky vegetable eaters initially, over time they’ll become more receptive to sampling more foods.

The ‘picky eater’ struggle comes to the fore because children begin to assert their independence simultaneously with the onset of solid food consumption. If the parent uses bribery, enticement, coaxing, cajoling, and begging, the child quickly learns, NOT eating is a way to maintain control of their life-albeit-a tiny slice. But at 6 months old, what seems like a tiny slice to an adult is huge to a child. As you will notice babies seldom are bribed, enticed, cajoled or begged to drink milk-it is ‘offered’ to them. Yet, when the child is introduced to solid food, parents seem compelled to cajole or beg the child to eat ‘at least one bite.’ Given the time to learn the new tastes and textures, children will eat the food their blood and body type requires or prefers, if it is offered in a ‘take-it or leave-it’ style.

The ‘at least one bite’ rule sets up a power struggle between parent/caretaker and child. More often then not, the ‘at least one bite’ includes a bribe. “You can have dessert (something sweet) if you eat one bite.” The number of tries, threats, bribery, and begging all set up a power struggle between parent and child. In the long-term, both parent and child, lose. The parent loses because the child learns they are in control and can extract a price or leverage something by eating. The child loses because they learn manipulative behavior and controlling vs the parent(s) being in charge of managing a healthy food plan and healthy interactions. In the long-term the child also loses because it sets up a life-long internal battle with food.

Disguising food also sets up a power struggle in a different way–the child usually suspects the deception at the out-set and will more often than not refuse to eat it. When the child asks, “Is this ___?,” the parent is faced with a dilemma. “Do I tell the truth or lie for a greater good?”-enticing my child to eat what I think they need to eat. A child will sooner than later discover what has been done. This form of dishonesty with the child is a betrayal of trust and the parent(s) loses integrity with their child. The question is: Is disguising the food in a foolhardy attempt to cajole your child to eat what they don’t want to eat worth compromising your integrity and betraying their trust?

In summary:

• The parents’ primary responsibility is to provide good, nutritious food at mealtime. It is your child’s responsibility to eat it and when they are hungry they will, if it is on their list of acquired healthy favorites.

• Serve meals “buffet” style and let them choose what and how much they want. This eliminates the power struggle.

• Joke about what they don’t like within their healthy foods based on body and blood type. Children love parents to be silly! They can identify with you more readily and it creates a relaxed atmosphere.

• Put your children’s favorite foods on a shelf that they can reach in both the fridge and cupboard, in a space reserved just for them. When they want something to eat, they can get it themselves.

• Let your child help prepare the meals. They love to feel included! Forget the need to have everything perfectly arranged, chopped or prepared. Foster their self-confidence and feed their bodies while giving their soul emotional sustenance by fostering a stress free environment.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Life Coach, Hypnotherapist, Author, “101 Great Ways To Improve Your Life.” Dr. Dorothy has the unique gift of connecting people with a broad range of profound principles that resonate in the deepest part of their being. She brings awareness to concepts not typically obvious to one’s daily thoughts and feelings.