I was very intentional to start him off with green vegetables and then create combinations of vegetables and spices that would expand his palate. Sweet Pea loved veggies until he became old enough to see other kids not like their veggies. TV shows that trying to teach kids to love veggies, at times, had a counter-intuitive effect, and in turn, Sweet Pea absorbed the "I don't like veggies!" message instead of the "I didn't like veggies, but now they're great!" message.
So with all of this and understanding the importance of vegetables in the development of growing little bodies, what was a mom to do?
Here are my top 5 strategies for winning the Veggie Battle Royale:
- "In Your Face!": For kids, it can take up to 10-15 or more introductions of a food for them to try it, much less like it. Even when Sweet Pea would run away from his "veggie infested" plate crying and screaming in horror, I still made sure he always had some type of vegetable on his plate... whether he ate it or not. Eventually, he began to try some of them and to his surprise, love them too!
- "Sous-Chef Needed": Sweet Pea is the best sous-chef in the Edge Kitchen! He helps me measure ingredients, count food, stir bowls and loves to watch things change from goopy batter to fluffy bread! Having your kids help you in the kitchen is one of the best ways to expose them to new foods that you want them to try. It's also a great way to fit in lessons like reading, counting, matching, sorting, chemistry, physics and other skills in a fun way! They take pride in what they helped to create, and in turn, are more likely to try it! I started out easy by having him help with smoothies or his favorite sandwich. Then I had him help with things like whole-grain chocolate-zucchini muffins and veggie pancakes. Now he requests those items on a regular basis!
- "Smother It!": Sweet Pea will eat almost anything if there's ketchup or BBQ sauce to dip it in. In the beginning I felt, "I want him to like the veggie for what it is.. not how it tastes with ketchup!" I quickly got over that when I considered at least the veggie is making it into his body this way! Most ketchups on the market are laced with high fructose corn syrup, so I started making my own (recipe coming soon). Now, Hunt's makes a great 100% all natural ketchup is a great option when I don't have time to make my own. The same goes for BBQ sauce as well. Stubb's is a family favorite with 100% recognizable ingredients.
- "Just One Bite": We have the one-bite rule. (Honestly, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't!) The rule: You must take at least one bite of everything on your plate. What sometimes happens is that he will eat everything else and leave the lonely veggies there to get cold, congealed and weird! (Of course he wouldn't want to eat them at that point... I wouldn't even want them at that point!) So with the "one bite rule", we have to make sure he takes that bite early in the meal and pairs it with something he really likes. For example, if we're having chicken, rice pilaf and sauteed eggplant, he'll take a bite of eggplant with a bite of chicken on the same fork. We never require him to "clean his plate", but we tell him that we need to see that he's made a good effort at eating his food.
- "When... Then": We sometimes use this strategy if he's taking an abnormally long time finishing his food. We tell him "When you finish your [insert veggie here], then we can [insert super awesome thing here." So, "When you finish your broccoli casserole, then we can go outside and play with Tahoe!" The key to this one is choosing something that your kids really want to do!
Is my son a vegetarian now, ABSOLUTELY NOT! Sweet Pea was to the point of only eating sweet peas. But after consistently implementing these, and a few other, strategies, I now have a go-to list of veggies that he loves. We continue to introduce him to new veggies in unique ways and as we're learning, he will eventually make the choice to try and love them!