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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Eat your veggies! Yeah, right



Mom_powerpuffgirls"Eat your veggies, they are good for you." Say that and you might as well put on a bulletproof vest for the piercing looks coming your way.

It's one of the most common complaints I hear from moms (and from wives for that matter) who live with creatures who would just rather dip something in cheese sauce than toss a salad. Inspired by a classic Powerpuff Girls episode (at left) where they fought off broccoli monsters by eating them, I decided there's other ways to get at this.

Don't be discouraged, just keep offering it and modeling the behavior by eating a lot of veggies yourself.

In the meantime, you can give yourself a little peace of mind with a multivitamin so you don't get too alarmed by this very normal toddler and preschooler behavior. It's actually quite primal. In the wild, poisonous food is often bitter, but sweet foods never are. So children naturally like fruits more than veggies at first. See? Your kid isn't stubborn, she's smart!

It takes time, exposure and a gradual buildup of taste buds for some kids. I'm sure you know kids who happily snack on a bowl of broccoli but that was never mine. While I nursed a grudge over those happy veggie eaters, I have noticed mine have gotten a bit better over time (and so has my husband) but there is still a long way to go.

Here's some of the things I did:

SNEAK IT: I load up carrots and diced zucchini and even chopped spinach in spaghetti and Mom_carrots pizza sauces. I add diced tomatoes, carrots or spinach leaves to quesadillas and grilled cheese. Soup is a wonderful way to add extra veggies. And Sneaky Chef and other cookbooks have great ideas like adding carrot purree to mac and cheese that goes unnoticed.

OFFER IT: Even though I have added and sneaked veggies I still have some on the plate at every meal. I have a philosophical need to present it as something to be enjoyed and sneaking them in seems to confirm kids' fears that they are poison. I still sneak sometimes, but I openly offer them at every meal.

Mom_cantaloupe_3RAINBOW OF COLORS: My kids never cared for veggies but they will eat all manner of fruits so I add fruit to every meal, especially cantaloupe (which has the same vitamins as carrots) and berries.

MAKE IT A GAME: We call broccoli stalks "trees" and imagine we are giants eating a whole tree. Sliced carrots are coins and we see who can put the most money in his belly. Silly stuff works wonders.

GET THEM TO HELP MAKE IT: This has been one of the most helpful things lately, getting the kids to help with dinner. We signed up for one of All Children's Family Cooking Classes and you could have knocked me over with a feather when my  kids ate brown rice vegetable stir fry that they had made. Here's the recipe. If they helped make it, they have a sense of pride and really want to like it.

THE 'NO THANK YOU' BITE: I tell my kids I will never make them eat something they trulyMom_broccoli  don't like, but I want them to at least try it and say "No thank you" to see if they eat it. Even if it's something they have tried before and not liked, I asked them to have just one bite the size of a quarter to make sure. By doing this I finally got the kids to like broccoli and carrots because after several "No thank you" bites, they finally developed a taste for them. The common argument they'll give me is but I've already tried this, remember? I then explain how taste buds grow and change as they get older and make it seem like a privilege that comes with age.

NEVER FIGHT ABOUT IT: This was the best advice I got from the book Coping with a Picky Eater. The No. 1 rule at the table is not to talk at all about what people eat, good or bad. The purpose of a meal is to meet and share and have fun. If they don't eat as you would like, oh well. There will be a healthy snack in a few hours or at bedtime that should hold them over.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne

[Photos: Vegetables from; The Powerpuff Girls book cover from Scholastic]

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:59am]


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