By Erin Wyatt a Recent ASU Nutrition Student
As a first-time mom, everything is new to me. Each week seems to bring another exciting development, as well as an unfamiliar challenge. Luckily, I have the Internet to search for tips and tricks and just general reassurance that everything is normal. Now that my baby girl is seven months old, we have entered the territory of eating solid foods. As a nutrition and food enthusiast, this is an exciting time for me to share my passion and know-how with my daughter. However, this is an extremely tricky area to navigate for parents. We want to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients, enjoying a variety of foods, and keeping an eye on potential allergies. This is easier said than done, especially when you have a picky eater on your hands. Luckily there are some helpful techniques to get your kids to eat their vegetables without having to beg and bribe.
If at First, You Don’t Succeed…
It can be discouraging to see your little one spit out that food that you so lovingly prepared, or bought, for them. Especially when it was full of vitamins and nutrients in the form of vegetables. But do not give up! Research shows that repeated exposure to an initially disliked vegetable increases the likelihood of eventual consumption of that vegetable, even a fondness for it.1 This might take up to eight times, according to this study.1 So do not be discouraged if your child seems to hate your favorite vegetable. One dietitian suggests trying to prepare the vegetable in different ways to expose them to variety and eventual acceptance of the vegetable.2 This could include roasting, sautéing, blending, or mixing with other flavors to increase their interest. Once they have a taste for the food, they will continue to like it for years.1
Variety is the Spice of Life
Introduction to healthy fruits and vegetables starts as early as the prenatal period.4 The more variety that the mother consumes, the more exposure to these flavors the child will have. This includes the breastfeeding period as well. Then, you should introduce your child to a variety of foods and flavors once they have the hang of eating.3 This includes adding seasonings and spices into dishes which expands their palates and allows for less picky eaters as they grow up. However, it is important to be mindful of how much salt is added to these dishes, so that your child prefers the actual flavors of food, as opposed to the salt.3
Don’t Be a Pusher
The “clean plate club” or perhaps being bribed with dessert may have been a part of many childhoods, I know it was mine. However, research has shown that this type of forceful eating actually leads to a decrease in fondness for that particular food.4 Creating a positive environment for food exploration is more likely to get your child to eventually come around to a specific food. To save yourself from the frustration of uneaten food, offer your child just a few bites until they come around to liking it. Remember, this could take up to 8 times, so don’t sweat it if your child isn’t a fan for a while. It does not mean you are a bad parent or they are an unhealthy child, just keep gently trying until you have a vegetable loving kid to brag about.
- Maier-Noth, A., Schaal, B., Leathwood, P., & Issanchou, S. (2016). The lasting influences of early food-related variety experience: A longitudinal study of vegetable acceptance from 5 months to 6 years in two populations. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151356. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151356.
- Castle, J. (2019). 5 Parenting principles to help children try new foods. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2019-03-22/how-to-get-kids-to-try-new-foods.
- Hermann, M. (2017). Introducing new flavors to babies. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/breast-feeding/introducing-new-flavors-to-babies
- De Cosmi, V., Scaglioni, S., & Agostoni, C. (2017). Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices. Nutrients, 9(2), 107. doi:10.3390/nu9020107
Looking for more tips and tricks like this to keep your family happy and healthy? Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some new recipes to try out? Check out the Recipe Section of our website. How about some fresh produce that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the local Farmers Markets near you.