Do Most Kids Enjoy Eating Their Vegetables? (Answer: Yes)
Maybe you are laughing reading the title: kids enjoy eating vegetables. If you are a parent of a veggie picky eater you may feel that your child will never like to eat vegetables. But there are a few tricks that I have learned over the years living in France that have helped my kids taste, eat and (even) enjoy their veggies.
Looking at things simply: we parents, grandparents or caregivers have one basic food provider task: putting vegetables on our children’s plates. The harder (but more challenging and rewarding job) is how to get your kids to actually eat and enjoy their vegetables.
There is a rumor that French kids eat everything. And it is mostly true. I have seen it ‘live’ andI use French methods to feed my kids. These three French ways, that I outline below, used regularly and consistently, may also have your kids gobbling down their veggies, enjoying every bite, and asking for seconds.
Do you want to know how? I call it my “3 Course French Way,” that combines three consistent methods: starting early, a hungry appetite and the three course meal presentation (the key part!).
French Method #1 Starting Early
- It is never too early to help your kids develop the ‘enjoyment’ taste of vegetables and trying different varieties. The best time to introduce your children (your babies) to the taste of vegetables is when you are pregnant mom-to-be, by eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetables. A fetus can taste in utero and a fetus’s developing taste buds have ‘memory.’ When a baby is ready to eat solid foods (around 6 month of age), the fetus that has been previously exposed to vegetables in the maternal diet will be ready to re-taste these vegetables on the plate. And this is the same for breastfed infants: mom’s maternal diet has vegetable tastes that are passed thru the breastmilk and re-tasted later on the plate.
- Keep encouraging your baby, then toddler, then preschooler and school-aged child to taste and appreciate the vegetables you serve them. Don’t force your children to eat, but keep positive and keep trying. By re-introducing that vegetable and a variety of different vegetables cooked in different ways, your child will eventually accept that vegetables are a natural part of a balanced diet and that vegetables can taste good. Sometimes it can take up to 20 times before a child accepts that new vegetable. And sometimes kids will like a certain few vegetables (and not all of them) even after trying over and over. And this is okay too.
French Method #2 Hungry Appetite
- A very French cultural way of eating is to be very strict with kids’ hunger and appetite. By making sure your kids are hungry when they sit down to eat, (with a very hungry appetite) this encourages your kids to eat the food that is put down in front of them. And why wouldn’t they eat if the vegetables taste and look good?
- Which brings me to the next part: to make those veggies appetizing to eat. Rather than offering steamed, plain broccoli, why not serve that broccoli at a ‘higher’ level and serve your veggies with a dipping sauce, or sautéed in garlic and olive oil? Who wants to eat boring broccoli? (Certainly not me!) Make your veggies look appetizing, colorful and fresh.
- And the most important French method that I use: I serve the veggies as the first course of a three course French meal. Serve the vegetables first before the other main foods. Put the veggies on the center of the plate and then use this vegetable course as the first part of the meal before serving the rest. Just put the food down and turn your head and let your kids taste, dive in, smell, discover. If you kids are really hungry, I promise you, they will try those veggies, they will taste that first course, and more times than not, they will love them (and ask for seconds that you can re-pile on their plate before the next course).
- Finally, something to remember: stay positive and keep trying. My four kids know the must taste rule. And this includes tasting vegetables, even ones they know (or think) they don’t like. Two of my kids love mushrooms, two hate them. Two of my kids love zucchini, two hate them, all of my kids love broccoli, all of them dislike eggplant. But it doesn’t stop me from trying and serving them different types of vegetables cooked in a variety of ways. If most of the time they like their food then that is a big enough success for me.
Key to veggie success: be consistent, persistent, yet flexible:
Be consistent, persistent and flexible with your veggie goals with your children. Use these three French methods that I have outlined here: start early, hungry appetite and three course meal presentation. And after trying these methods, if your child still doesn’t like veggies, don’t be discouraged, don’t push the issue, just make sure they get their “5 A Day” with more fruit.
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