You may have noticed that your little one has quite the sweet tooth and turns up her nose at anything green. This is perfectly natural. In fact, babies are born with a penchant for sweet flavors. Breast milk, the first thing your baby tastes out of the womb, is naturally sweet in flavor. Babies and children have much stronger taste experiences than we do as adults, so slightly bitter tastes tend to be more off-putting to their senses than when they get older. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are 6 strategies to get your kids to eat their veggies.
This biological obstacle can be frustrating for parents and it’s so easy to just give in and feed your kids sweeter foods out of sheer exhaustion. Why struggle and worry they aren’t getting enough to eat when they’re perfectly happy to chow down on that cookie? Research shows that feeding your child sweetened foods and beverages from a young age can actually set them up for a legion of health problems as they grow older. Things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes! Let’s talk about strategies for avoiding this fate, and getting your kids to “eat the rainbow”.
1. Repeated exposure is key. Can you guess how many times you should offer your baby that spinach before you conclude that he simply doesn’t like it? Believe it or not, it may take as many as 10-12 individual exposures to a new food to get him to accept and consume it. He may prefer to play with it the first time, throw it on the floor the second…sound familiar? This is all perfectly normal and an important part of his discovery of the food world.
2. Avoid the Processed Sweet Stuff. If you were given the choice between an oreo and a cucumber, which would you reach for? Presenting your child with inconsistent food choices is kind of unfair. If you condition your babies palette to expect sweetened beverages, cookies or cereals with added sugar, they’ll be more likely to reject the fresh foods. Once in a while, a cookie or other sweet treat is more than okay, but try not to make it a regular part of their diet.
3. Use your imagination. Offering up plain, uncooked vegetables on a flat plate is pretty boring. Get your creative juices flowing and offer up some fun presentations and combinations! Check out Super Healthy Kids for lots of great ideas.
4. Let her choose her veggies. This one won’t work until your child is old enough to converse with you, so it’s more appropriate for toddlers than babies. Giving your toddler the choice of “carrots or broccoli”, “peas or corn”, allows her to feel a part of the process and makes her feel in control of what she’s eating.
5. Pair vegetables with a familiar food. Does your child absolutely love pizza? Of course he does. Why not make your own pizza at home and let him choose the toppings from a variety of prepared vegetables? You can even make fun shapes like a heart or a smiley face!
6. Dip it! Toddlers love to play with their food, so offering up a dip with fruit or veggies is a great way to let them play and eat at the same time. Try pairing carrots and celery with hummus or guacamole, or apples with all-natural peanut butter!