As a parent, it’s one of your duties to make sure your children eat healthy foods. However, most kids are so picky about their food that parents dread feeding time. If you’re one of those parents who have to endure with kids throwing away their vegetables, this blog is perfect for you!
Here’s Why Your Kids Don’t Like Vegetables
I bet you didn’t like vegetables when you were a kid too. Your parents may also have to endure your constant tantrums during feeding time back in the day. It’s pretty normal that kids don’t get all excited and happy when they have to eat vegetables, even science thinks it’s normal too.
If you just became a parent, everything about parenting is hard. You have to read a lot of books, magazines, just about anything you can lay your eyes on to make you a good mom or dad. This includes understanding why your babies or toddlers hate you if you make them eat vegetables. I’m going to break down the reasons for you and explain each one.
Reason #1: Kids Require Massive Energy Needs
Biologically speaking, kids need way more energy than adults. Vegetables don’t provide enough natural sugars that can fuel a child and they aren’t very calorically dense so it means that they lack the energy that can power-up your kid. This is why most kids turn to food that can provide them with lots and lots and lots of energy that can make them last all day.
I mean, yeah, it doesn’t really make sense for kids to not eat something that can give them a lot of energy. It doesn’t also make sense if you won’t provide them with food that can give them the energy that they’re going to need. You need to create meals that can give them all the health benefits and energy all wrapped up into one. Read further down along this blog and I’ll help you know which foods give them just that.
Reason #2: The Awful Taste
Not all vegetables taste awful but for a kid’s taste buds, they are appalling. One of the notable features of green vegetables is its bitter taste. The bitter taste is caused by the level of calcium it contains and other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids, phenols, and terpenes.
Reason #3: Lack of Knowledge
Psychologically, we associate bitterness as a sign of poison and potential toxicity. For a kid, they’d rather avoid eating vegetables because they don’t really understand their health benefits. Vegetables are full of bitter compounds but they are more beneficial to us rather than toxic. As an adult, you already know how healthy vegetables are but for kids, well, not so much. This is where your role as a parent comes in. You need to introduce to your kids the benefits of eating healthy foods.
Reason #4: Paired Associative Learning
Paired Associative Learning is associated with the stimulus of a specific response. And in this case, the odds are not in favor of vegetables. Why is that?
Kids relate processed foods that have high levels in fat and sugar such as ice cream, cake, candy with positive memories. Whenever kids eat those types of food, they can think about parties, holidays, celebrations, and rewards. Parents, or any adult for that matter, play a huge role in this because they tend to let their kids eat something or serve foods that are high in sugar during joyous occasions.
As for vegetables, what children can think about are (slightly) negative memories such as you nagging them and forcing them to eat vegetables. “You can’t leave the dinner table without finishing your food!” is not a good way to make the kids want to eat their veggies. They will only see this as a chore which I bet they dread. Be more positive and creative when it comes to force-feeding them vegetables.
Sooner or later, when they start to become conscious with how they look and they can already associate vegetables with health, fitness, and success, they’ll be the ones requesting a salad rather than fried foods.
The Impact Of Junk Food On Children
Convenient, cheaper, and tastier are the top three reasons why junk foods are very appealing. For kids who don’t really understand the negative health consequences of eating junk food, they’ll find junk food appetizing and scrumptious. But just like any other addictive substance, junk can be addictive too. Eating too much junk food can lead to obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem, and even depression.
According to a study published in “Pediatrics”, kids who ate more fast food have higher levels of calories, fat, carbohydrates, and added sugar intake in just one meal! About 34 percent of kids and teenagers consume fast food and junk food on any given day. That’s such an alarming percentage. And, in 2010, “Nature Neuroscience” released a journal stating that kids who are used to eating fast food have problematic patterns of eating. This factor alone can make your kid prone to obesity at such an early age.
The Center for Food Safety noted that obese children are more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease as they age. Experts also blame junk foods as the primary cause of the increase in rates of diabetes and stroke. Help your kids not to develop any chronic illness in the future.
Low Self-Esteem and Depression
Growing children start to get more conscious. With all the bullying in school, kids who have weight problems develop low self-esteem which can later on lead or progress to depression. Junk food can contribute a lot to unhealthy weight gain, bad skin, and in other detrimental ways that can affect a child’s physical development. If you want your child to grow up healthy, smart, enthusiastic, and far from getting depressed, let them appreciate vegetables while they’re young so that they can bring it with them as they grow up.
Here’s What You Can Do As A Parent
I know how expensive staying healthy is. A salad is way more expensive than Cheetos. But, it pays to be healthy. If you’re healthy, there are fewer chances for you to visit the hospital. Instead of spending so much on the hospital bill, invest your money on preparing healthy meals every day for your family.
Try to reduce the bitterness.
There are so many methods in cooking that you can do in order to reduce the bitterness in vegetables. You can caramelize, pickle, braise and sauté your vegetables. You can also add in fat, sugar, and salt. But don’t overdo it or else you’ll lose the sole purpose of making a healthy meal.
Constant exposure to healthy meals
As human as we are, we tend to love eating food that we are familiar with. Not all people are adventurous with food. Guess what, so do children. Children like to eat what they are familiar with. Constant exposure to vegetables can help them love what they eat. It usually takes about 10-15 tries before a person can say that they like the food.
If you’re trying to let your kid love broccoli, don’t let him eat 15 servings of broccoli all at once. It doesn’t work that way. What you can do is slowly introduce broccoli to them by letting them eat a small serving in a few dishes that your kid loves. In that way, you’re not forcing them to eat something they don’t want to and you’re not traumatizing them.
Please, as much as you can, avoid using food as a reward or punishment. If you put the vegetables on the table alone before serving out other food, your kids may be too hungry enough to care and will eat them without a problem. You can put gentle but firm pressure on your kids to eat the vegetables but please avoid nagging.
Be creative in your food presentation
Instead of the normal-looking salad or a traditional boring egg sandwich, try to make it look appetizing. You can draw a smiley face or design the vegetables to look like a rocket ship or something. It’s all up to your creativity! The sky is your limit.
Here’s How You Can Develop Healthy Eating Habits For Your Kids
Be your kid’s role model. If your children will see you eat healthy food, they will be more inspired to follow in on your footsteps. Be a good example to them and influence them by establishing your own healthy eating habits.
Encourage family meals. When everyone is having a great time eating together, this can help promote family unity and it can help improve your child’s nutrition. Take the time to prepare healthy meals and watch your family enjoy their food.
Prepare healthy snacks. Before sending your kids off to school, make sure they have healthy snacks that they can munch on when they can. I mean, yeah sure, the cafeteria may have laid out some healthy meal and snacks for the students but mealtime and snack time is more special if you prepare their food yourself.
Give your kids some responsibility. Your kid would feel responsible if you let them decide on WHICH and HOW MUCH of the healthy food are they eating while you decide on the WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE the food will be served.
Provide an array of balanced meals. You can prep meals that your family will love you for. You can offer lean protein meals, some fruits, and vegetables, low-fat dairy products for dessert. It is best to mix and match different food groups per meal to keep them healthy and excited for every meal.
Involve your kids with meal preparation. Encourage your young ones to help you in the kitchen. This can help them be more curious and open to trying new foods. Of course, make sure that they are away from any sharp objects and let them do age-appropriate tasks.
Never use food as a reward. The goal here is to make them want to eat healthy food even if you’re not looking at them. The best way to teach them is to make them psychologically aware that healthy foods are always the best. It also sends the wrong message because usually when we reward people with food, they’re usually junk food.
In the End…
There’s so much you can for your kids. If it were up to you, you’d always want to check what they’re eating and if they’re doing okay. Aside from preparing amazing healthy meals for them, they also have to be under the care of a pediatrician who can provide excellent patient care.
To set up an appointment for a nutritional evaluation call Pediatric Associates California and set up an appointment with Dr. Liliana Caceres or Dr. Alfredo Garcia. To schedule an appointment in Fresno, call us at (559) 728-4133, to contact our Madera office call us at (559) 673-6085.
Don’t compromise your child’s health. Choose a doctor who truly cares.