Teach your Kids to eat fruits and vegetables

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by homemadecook, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. homemadecook

    homemadecook

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    Are your kids eating fruits and vegetables? Nowadays it's very hard for moms to teach their kids to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Would it be easier if we have taught them during their toddler years? Will that matter or it will still change as they grow up? I have nephews and nieces who don't really want to eat vegetables. All they want to eat are junk foods or hotdogs. My sister can't even force them to eat vegetables, they will just get cranky and all.
     
  2. french fries

    french fries

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    I don't think you can "teach" a kid what to eat. You offer foods, and let them choose what they want. It's very important for a child's development to be able to choose what foods he wants to eat. Obviously, you restrict the choice in that you get to decide which choices to offer them.

    My kid is 1 & 1/2 and eats many various fruits and veggies. I have never, ever forced him to eat, or threatened him of anything if he didn't eat something. He eats broccoli, peas, leeks, turnip, potatoes, beets, kale, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, fennel, mushrooms, onions, garlic, shallots, cucumber, peaches, prunes, strawberries, raspberries, meyer lemons, oranges, mandarines, pear, apple, dates, dried apricots, pineapple, blueberries, etc, etc...

    To me it's not surprising he eats all that, it's just what we eat in our house, what we have in our backyard, what he sees us eat on a daily basis. Note that I'm not saying that any day of the week, I can sit him down in front of a plate full of any of those and have him eat it. I'm just saying he's eaten all of that in his first 1 & 1/2 year of life. A lot of time he doesn't want it, and that's fine, he's got other choices. For example tonight, we were eating chicken adobo with white rice. But my kid first had whole wheat macaronis and cheese, fresh pea puree, and "pancakes" made with fava and chickpea flour, with sweated shitake. Then he sat with us and had chicken adobo. Then he ate a frozen strawberry kefir popsicle.

    Well he's still really young obviously, but he hasn't been introduced to junk food yet. I know he'll have it later, and that's fine, but there's a time for everything. Right now he's developing his little palate, and I'm trying to expose him to as many varieties of fresh, healthful foodstuff. 

    I believe the toddler years are important as that's when the palate develops. If all he eats is processed foods, he's going to develop a taste for the flavorizers used in those foods, and later in life he will search for the same flavors in junk food.

    Your sister shouldn't force them to eat anything. But she can't expect her kids to eat stuff she doesn't eat. If she wants to change her kid's habits, she has to start with the habits of the whole family. I also believe you have to make kids involved. My kid comes with us to the farmer's market, and he wants to taste every sample, touch every fruit, every vegetable, and we play games to identify the easy ones, and I tell him their names, etc. Once home, I have him "help" me prepare stuff (he'll hold the spoon for about 1mn in the pot without stirring, or I give him the peas one by one as I shell them, for him to put in the steamer basket... etc).

    Since you're on this forum I'm assuming you love to cook. Maybe it could be your role, as the Uncle, to once in a while have your niece and nephew over, teach them how to shop at a market, show them how to cook, and get them excited about fresh healthful food again.

    Best of luck to you, to your sister, and to the little ones.
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I agree with everything French Fries said.

    Our kids ate everything, right from the start. In fact, our youngest would eat his veggies before turning to the protein.

    Why? Because it's what they grew up with. Nobody ever taught them that fruits and veggies were a different class of food; something the "had" to eat cuz it was healthy. Fruits and veggies were just part of everyday meals.

    I think it unreasonable to raise children on junk food and then expect that they'll suddenly be willing to switch just because mom or dad insists. Indeed, the older they are, the less likely they're going to listen just because it's part of their independence to not pay attention to parents.
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Feed it to them from the start.
     
  5. jaxstar84

    jaxstar84

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    agree with what everyone else has said... and its so important to involve them in everything.

    i was a nanny in the netherlands and the kids i had to look after werent keen on eating much fruit or veg at all... i couldnt believe the things they ate sometimes... there was always fruit and veg on the table but that was for the mum and she never gave any importance to the kids getting some of the salad etc only every now and again shed try and force them, outta nowhere... it was inconsistant and wasnt working...

    so being food obsessed that i am, i tried a different tack with them... i got them involved in helping me with all aspects of cooking. making pizza bases, putting their own toppings on them... making fruit kebabs (with fruit i knew they would already eat - and maybe one new one) and letting them smother it with yoghurt and chocolate... slowly introducing new fruit and veg to them, and letting them know that all i wanted them to do was try it, they didnt have to eat the whole thing, just try it. they start out putting their tongue on it, and saying they hate it - they got praise heaped on them for having a go. but you cant stop there, kids need to have food introduced to them more than once, so i gave them things once a week... sometimes i let them come to the supermarket with me and they could choose anything from the fruit n veg section to try, they took it home, and i let them cut it up and prepare it any way they liked, making funny sh apes with them, they spent more time playing with it than eating it... but they were just developing a relationship with the food, it wasnt something that should intimidate or scare them, food is meant to be fun. they would try it, and sometimes hate it, sometimes say oh thats not actually too bad, i dont want to eat it now but its not as bad as i thought...

    getting them involved, praising them, celebrating the small steps they take and showing them how fun cooking can be is the best way to get kids into eating fresh food, in my opinion anyway!
     
  6. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Great advice. I think a lot of parents make the mistake of feeding their children "convenience" food. Fast food restaurants are not dumb, they make their food taste very good so that people will opt for it, and children will almost always rather have the "kids meal" than have to trudge through actual food. What is really the tragedy is there aren't more healthy convenience fast food places. Subway isn't too bad, but it's hard to find places making small portions of healthy food and doing it quickly and at reasonable prices.
     
  7. bughut

    bughut

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    I agree with so much of the above. Especially jaxsar84. getting children involved with the food they're eating is a great incentive to actually eating it. Kids dont know aubergines and courgettes are gross till their peers tell them it is.
    All three of my boys enjoyed the flavours they grew up with, although they wouldnt admit it to their pals till they were older. They prefered to pretend they ate the same things they did. ie. processed food. Macdonalds etc...Sad.
     
  8. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

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    Great advice here.  Having fruit and veg as normal food along with proteins and starches etc is the only way to treat it.  No forcing, and you need to lead by example and get them involved in it.  Encourage and praise, but don't stress out if they won't have it initially, because they'll pick up on that very easily, and see the fruit and veg as negative items.

    Fruit on skewers made by the kids are a great idea - skewer some suitable fruit and veg and do them on a bbq.  It's theatre and we all know kids love a good show :)   Get them to fill celery sticks with peanut butter and dot raisins on top of it and call it a spotty tree or something.  If they are old enough, buy them a simple kids cook book.  Lots of them out there.

    Introducing new flavours like zucchini and carrots is easy in sausage rolls, croquettes, pasta sauces and meatballs, soups can be great too.  Make a chicken noodle soup, but puree things like potato and carrot to go in as hidden ingredients.  Once they accept those flavours you can try the vegetables as items separately on the dinner plate.  Again, it will take time, but showing stress really doesn't help.  I did that with meat for a bit and when they were young it really did not work.  So I just put smaller portions of it - they actually loved veg & fruit from the start.  If they ate the meat - bonus.  If not, well, the dog got a bonus. Fish fingers did wonders for a while. But cheese was usually the main protein they had no trouble with,  so I made good  use of that like with pasta etc.  Bacon was easy too.

    One Hallowe'en when my 2 were very young, I served up a ground beef ragu which was full of tomatoes, carrots, garlic, onions,very finely diced mushrooms.  Did on top of penne pasta, had grated cheese and tomato sauce with it.  As it was Hallowe'en,  I christened it Monster Mash.  The tom sauce was the "blood", the cheese was "Worms", the penne was "Bones" jand the ragu was "Guts" just for fun.  They gobbled it down.  We still call it that - even though they are in their late teens now.

    Food should be fun.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  9. gerdosh

    gerdosh

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    Very good suggestions!

    Keep in mind though that young people have very sensitive taste buds that are easily overpowered but spicy or strong-flavored foods. As they get into their 20s and 30s, this sensitivity is not nearly as acute and by the golden years, the taste buds are dull. In general, keep away from foods and spices that overwhelm young taste buds.

    (author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)
     
  10. allie

    allie

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    Both of my children enjoyed spicy food when they were younger.  To this day, my oldest (16) will eat things that are hot enough to bring tears to your eyes.  My youngest (10) will eat some spice but nothing like she will.  She eats most fruits and vegetables.  He used to eat more than he does now.  The spinach e.coli scare happened when he was 5.  He heard them talking about it on the news and to this day will not eat it....the same child who once cried and begged for it in the grocery store!  He will eat a lot of vegetables but broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts are a few he will not touch at all.  He used to not eat onions at all (well except in a pasta sauce where he didn't really "see" them), then he helped a friend plant some in his garden a few years ago and now will eat them raw sometimes but not caramelized over pork chops. 

    I do agree that giving children fruits and vegetables from a young age as well as getting them involved in the food they eat helps to get them to be more open to trying new things.
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Keep in mind though that young people have very sensitive taste buds that are easily overpowered but spicy or strong-flavored foods.

    While that's generally true, it's also true that if kids have been brought up to eat what they like, rather than what they think they're supposed to like, overpowering foods become self-limiting.

    Just like adults, if they have no biases then they'll happily try anything, and back away from things they truly object to. What's more, as they age they'll try foods that didn't appeal to them when they were younger.

    When my kids were growing up, if there was something they didn't care for they'd not only say so, they'd describe exactly what it was about the item or dish that they didn't like.

    For instance, one of them didn't like sour, particulary, when a youngster. But in his teen years he'd walk around chewing lemon slices.
     
  12. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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      This is what we try to teach our three young children.  They are only 7, 5, 3 right now...but while they were under two...they ate almost anything we put in front of them.  But as they aged they became a little pickier.  All three of them do eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day.  But they don't eat all vegetables all the time (each one of them has their favorites).  But what we try to teach them is that even if something on their plate is not their favorite that they still need to try at least one bite.  They may not have liked it in the past, but today may be the day.

       dan
     
  13. nichole

    nichole

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    I found an effective tip to make the kids eat their veggies.  I tell my son to eat his squash so that he'll be a good sniper some day as this will make his eyes sharper.  I tell my daughter to eat her carrots since it will help her skin, etc...

    Well, I'm not lying, but with kids you have to be creative :)