How do I get my kid to eat fruits and vegetables?
If you have ever come across this question on the internet, you have likely encountered this common answer: “Hide them! Green smoothies, mix them in their oatmeal, make fruit popsicles that taste like candy but have real fruit in them”
I read this answer for the zillionth time today and thought about why it was bothering me. Would I want vegetables hidden in my food? Would I hide them in my spouse / partner’s food? I tried making Bodie a green smoothie once and he was horrified when I told him that there was spinach in it and refused to take another sip. He felt betrayed, and rightly so, hiding vegetables is sneaky and not nice!
Beyond that, hiding fruits or vegetables encourages children to be picky eaters. It says “vegetables are bad and worth being sneaky and manipulative about”. It does not create a culture of healthy food being delicious and desirable, it creates a culture of healthy food being something you tolerate, begrudgingly, and hopefully hidden in something sweet.
So how do you respect your child and make sure they are getting good nutrition? This makes me think of a documentary that I once saw that had a French school in it. The children ate all kinds of food, lentils, carrot soup, crusty baguette, beef stew. Why was this? My theory is that it is because most French children are continuously offered delicious vegetables and foods from birth.
If a child learns, from birth, that vegetables and fruits are a normal part of their daily life and that they can be prepared well using high quality ingredients, there is no reason to dislike them. Our distaste of an entire food group comes from poor ingredients and poor preparation. That is not to say that every toddler will eat every vegetable at every meal, but it’s a good start.
If your child does refuse fruits or vegetables, keep trying. Offer them with every meal, prepare them in different ways, use a variety of produce and DO NOT PUSH, just put it on the plate. This is especially easy if you are doing baby led weaning, which already incorporates these principles into it’s method of feeding children.
Whatever you do, don’t trick your kids, don’t make them think that veggies are only good when they are covered in fruit juice or sugar. If they learn to enjoy them when they are young, they will carry that through their teen years and into adulthood. Treat them the same way that you would a friend you are offering a new food too, let them explore it, make it available, and don’t be forceful or manipulative.
Happy eating to you all,