The seminar last night in Old Saybrook, CT was terrific. Thanks to all who came out to discuss the very interesting topic Why Some Kids Eat Peas & Others Don’t. Afterwards, a number of people asked me to reprint the key points. Here they are.
If your children don’t eat vegetables it can’t be because they don’t like them.
Your children may not like some vegetables, but if they haven’t tried them all, haven’t tried them prepared in a variety of ways, or if they reject them before they’ve even tasted them then the problem isn’t just about taste. Something else is going on.
Here are some reasons why kids won’t eat veggies. They…
- fear a bad taste
- fear new experiences.
- have immature taste preferences which need to be developed.
- are in a control struggle.
- have had a negative emotional response to the food (it looks gross, or yucky).
- don’t think they need to eat vegetables or it’s not important.
- have no incentive to eat what is served.
- have a physiological problem.
To get your child eating vegetables, then, you need to match a solution to the problem (or problems). Here are solutions to consider:
- Pressure your kids to eat vegetables. It only makes them more resistant.
- Tell your kids vegetables are good for them. Appeal to their emotions not their logic.
- Teach your kids to hate vegetables. No one does it on purpose, but we all do it anyway. Examine the ways you inadvertently send the message that “good” food is bad and “bad” food is good.
- Talk to your children about the three principles of healthy eating – proportion, variety, moderation. These translate the science of nutrition into behaviors. “Eat more of these foods, and less of those foods.” “Eat different foods each day.” “Only eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.”
- Serve vegetables more frequently. It will take the pressure off dinner, and get your children used to eating vegetables. Plus, the bite or two they eat at each at meal and snack will add up to more than your kids probably get on the dinner-only vegetable plan.
- Turn your attention away from vegetables & onto the other foods your kids eat. Look for the taste, texture and appearance food habits your children have developed.
- Give your child more control. You decide the general structure (for instance, how much and how often candy is consumed) and they decide the small stuff (which candy to eat and when to have it).
- Identify which behavioral habits your child has that may be getting in the way. Sometimes “no” is a habit. If your child is on automatic pilot, figure out how to disrupt the pattern so you can establish new ones.
- Teach your child HOW to try new foods. This skill doesn’t come automatically to most kids. Help your children predict what something will taste like by exploring food with all their senses.
- Increase the incentives for your child to eat vegetables. Slip in some veggies when kids are most hungry and don’t reward them for skipping dinner by handing out the good stuff — the cereal, the sandwiches, the yogurts — before bed.
- Identify what YOU get out of the current system. Parents give in to their children’s culinary demands because they fear their kids will be hungry. Or they hate conflict. Or they feel like cupcakes show love. Figure out what’s driving you and then you’ll be ready for change.
~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~