It’s not either/or when it comes to kids and vegetables

One of the perennial debates in parenting is how to get your kids to eat vegetables. And as usual, people seem to divide into two camps.

First, there’s the “sneak ’em in” camp: Puree veggies and add them to foods, chop them super small and add them to sauce, etc. and so on. (See: Deceptively Delicious.) Kids won’t eat vegetables, so give up and sneak them in.

Then there’s the “kids have to learn how to eat them” camp: Suck it up, kids, and eat the broccoli or else. Vegetables are naturally delicious and everybody would love them if given the chance. See: lots o’ pediatricians and a whole lot of crunchy granola types.

And (also as usual), I think the answer is most likely somewhere in between and both camps need to get a life. Yes, kids need to be introduced to plain vegetables not pureed into oblivion. But no, not all veggies are “naturally delicious” and a lot of grownups don’t like plain vegetables either.

And yes, I do think that sneaking in some purees and such in order to make sure kids get extra nutrition is a good idea, but it’s not teaching kids to eat vegetables, so it’s not the entire solution.

So the goal, I think, is to try and do both: Put that piece of sweet potato on your kid’s plate and try and convince them to taste it. And add some sweet potato puree to a soup to thicken it and add nutritional value.

As an aside, I’ll note that as we get older, our taste buds get weaker. What does this mean? Well, for example, many vegetables are going to taste significantly more bitter to kids than they are to adults. Which is one reason kids are less likely to eat them.

It might help to start with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and other naturally sweet veggies. (Besides, roasted butternut squash is one of the greatest foods in the universe. Seriously, take cubes, toss ’em with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast in a 450° oven until they’re done. Then try to tell me that it isn’t one of the most amazing foods ever.)

You might very well ask at this point whether my kids eat vegetables. ::snort:: Well, Yael loves roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower and puts broccoli on her pizza (but won’t eat it otherwise), but Barak won’t eat anything vegetable like, unless you count edamame.

Both of my kids like fruit (Barak is eating a tangerine as I type this) so I know they’re getting some vitamins and minerals, if not the full range. If only my kids ate anything that I could add purees to, I’d be in business…

I’ve seen a number of articles lately claiming that kids get their tastes for certain foods through the umbilical cord or through breastmilk or through constant exposure or whatever, but so far I haven’t seen any particularly good science that I trust. I’ll keep you posted, because I’d love to know the answer to how to get kids to like veggies!

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About mamamara

I'm a 40-year-old, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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2 Responses to It’s not either/or when it comes to kids and vegetables

  1. Lianne says:

    My younger niece (5) won’t touch anything other than a few veggies (carrots, potatoes, sliced cucumber). The older one (7) decided when she got her adult teeth that she would only eat adult food, and she loves just about everything. She loves squashed (although she decided that her mother’s choice of putting nutmeg on it is not for her). Potatoes, beans, cauliflower (preferably with cheese sauce), brussell sprouts (roasted, not steamed) will all disappear. And for her special birthday dinner from grandma last year, she chose… roast duck.

    • mamamara says:

      I’ve finally come to understand that in most cases, given the absolute best parenting possible, the kids are going to do what they damn well please. ::shrugs:: We exposed both kids to good food and veggies and whatnot and what else can we do?

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