Eat Your Veggies!
EAT YOUR VEGGIES!
Please Romaine Calm….
June 17th is Eat your Veggie Day!
We all know veggies are important for us to be healthy. They are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber. They provide our bodies with potassium, folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and phytochemicals. They reduce our risk for chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancers.
But my child won’t eat veggies!
How can I help my child get the recommended amount of servings when they won’t eat any vegetables?
We all know vegetables are healthy. And we all know children, our own included, who refuse to eat veggies. It can be very stressful to work on dietary changes with your child. There can be tears involved (yours and theirs), frustration, and wasted food.
There some things as a family that you can do to help increase vegetable consumption in your house. First off, role model the wanted behavior, in this case eating veggies, in front of your child. Make sure you have at least 5 servings of fruits or veggies a day. Have readily available veggies that are washed and cut up and place them where your child can see them. You can also make sure each meal and snack include a fruit or vegetable.
When you serve veggies, make sure you are serving an appropriate serving size. Servings sizes are not the same for children and adults.
A serving size is a 1/4 cup cooked vegetables.
A serving size is a 1/4 cup cooked vegetables or a 1/2 cup of raw veggies or salad.
A serving size is a 1/2 cup of cooked veggies or 1 cup of raw veggies or salad.
Brining your child to the grocery store and letting them help you prepare the food in the kitchen is shown to increase the quantity and numbers of veggies children will eat.
That’s all great but my child still refuses to eat their vegetables!
Role modeling and preparation is just one part of the process. The harder part is getting them to eat the veggies! This can be a long process. It can take a child over 20 times of seeing and trying something to like it! For older children there is a great episode of the “Wow in the World” science podcast that discusses this topic in a kid friendly and fun way. Understanding why it make take time for them to like a vegetable or other food can help a child be more willing to try a new food or vegetable.
For a parent, knowing these changes will not happen overnight can be helpful…do not judge the process on the meal! Look at the long end game! The parents and caregivers in your family should discuss a plan for meal and snack times. Your plan should include staying calm and keeping emotion out of mealtime. Nutritionist Ellyn Satter (ellynsatterinstitute.org) has great information about the “Division of Responsibility” for feeding and eating. Parents decide what foods are offered. Children then determine how much and whether to eat those foods. This means that once a meal is prepared and served, you do not demand your child to consume the meal given. You also do not prepare another meal. You place the meal in front of them and then proceed with your family’s mealtime.
But that still doesn’t put veggies in your child’s stomach! Here are a few more things you can do to help:
• Serve a very small portion of the non-preferred food. This can and should be pea or dice sized to start
• Serve age appropriate portions and let your child ask for more, large portion sizes can be overwhelming
• Sit your child in a supportive chair and provide them with age appropriate utensils
• Offer favorite foods along with the new vegetable
• Serve your child their meal on fun, colorful dishes –you can find fun plates that you food decorates a face or sections make a path to a fun reward at the end
• Serve food with a dip or sauce
• Prepare the vegetable in a variety of ways for example: roasted, baked, steamed, whole, shaved, spiralized, with a sauce or a sprinkle of cheese
• DO not talk about how the food makes you grow, instead emphasize what that food does for your body, for example, orange foods help our eyes see at night
• Let touch and play be an acceptable first step to acceptance of a food
• Laugh, joke, talk about your day-make your meals a time to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time together as a family
How Can I Make Food Fun?
Making food fun can help children become more comfortable with vegetables and other foods they refuse to eat. Here are some ideas:
• Make a funny face with the food
• Play tic-tac-toe with different fruits, veggies, and a favorite food
• Place small amounts of different foods in a muffin tin, make sure to include a variety of tastes, textures and favorite foods in addition to the new food
• Have your child help you prepare foods
• Make a rainbow with different colored foods
• Use special utensils or plates that use food to make designs/characters
• Cut food or use food cutters into interesting shapes and designs
• Play with food—use broccoli to paint or potatoes to stamp
What about pouches or juice?
When our children stop eating vegetables (usually as toddlers), we worry about their nutrition. In order to fill the void, we often turn to juice and “pouches”. This is NOT a good replacement for whole fruits and veggies. Juice provides very few nutrients, no fiber, and excessive sugar. Pouches are also not developmentally appropriate food after 9-12 months of age. They prevent children from developing muscles necessary for chewing, swallowing, and producing speech. They are also generally contain no fiber and are mostly sweetened fruit which makes them a source of excessive sugar. Children get use to the sweetness which makes introducing whole vegetables more difficult.
Feeding our children healthy food can be a great source of stress. Remember to take a big deep breath, expect change to happen slowly, and encourage your child to enjoy food. If you have any questions or are interested in meeting with our Pediatric Nutritionist for more guidance, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Children’s Health Care of Newburyport, Massachusetts and Haverhill, Massachusetts is a pediatric healthcare practice providing care for families across the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, southern New Hampshire, and the Seacoast regions. The Children’s Health Care team includes pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive pediatric health care for children, including newborns, toddlers, school aged children, adolescents, and young adults. Our child-centered and family-focused approach covers preventative and urgent care, immunizations, and specialist referrals. Our services include an on-site pediatric nutritionist, special needs care coordinator, and social workers. We also have walk-in appointments available at all of our locations for acute sick visits. Please visit chcmass.com where you will find information about our pediatric doctors, nurse practitioners, as well as our hours and services.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.