How to Help Your Child Love Vegetables

I often speak with parents who are worried about their child’s lack of vegetable intake. This is very common for most toddlers and children. It is okay for a child to not eat vegetables on a regular basis and by forcing, coercing, negotiating (or whatever your favourite tactic is to try to get your child to eat their vegetables) you are decreasing the chance she will eventually learn to eat and love vegetables. It is more important that you offer a variety of foods on a regular basis and relax and enjoy the meal and food if you want your child to love and enjoy vegetables. A little evolutionary background... on their own, most vegetables tend to be bitter and in the wild, this often meant poison. For natural selection, that meant that for survival, children often learned to avoid bitter tastes until later in their life, when they had the ability to differentiate between safe and dangerous foods. Our bodies are naturally designed this way. Taste buds change in your late teen/early 20’s so bitter tastes start tasting good.

In the meantime, don’t worry if your child does not like to eat salad or vegetables. A couple of things to consider when preparing foods to increase the chance your child may try and enjoy a vegetable:

1. Cook food that you enjoy with lots of flavour and fat. Often parents are concerned with various nutrients and try to make each dish as “healthy” as possible. This often meals they steam and bake vegetables with minimal fat and seasoning.

2. Make mixed dishes you enjoy. Parents often are afraid their child will reject certain parts of a given dish, thus rejecting the whole dish. Many children may not like a certain item in a dish, but they are really good at taking things out that they do not want.

3. Make it fun! Children often love dipping foods, so make it fun. This can be a soup where they can dip bread into, or a dip for some veggie sticks, breadsticks or chips.

Making mealtimes fun and enjoyable with good tasting food that you enjoy will translate into your child trying and eating those foods. It may take a little time, so keep offering a variety of foods on a regular basis and one day your child will try it.

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