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Stefanie Tsabar

3 Ways to Undo Kids’ Negative Associations with Vegetables



It is so hard to stop worrying about what our kids eat. Or rather, what they don’t eat.

Vegetables (with protein coming in at a close second) seem to top the list of our concerns. Mainly, the question I hear repeatedly is “how can we get our kids to eat more of them”?

Without. Complaining.

I know this feeling firsthand. When I started following the Division of Responsibility (DOR) my son slowly began trying new food without a fuss and eating more variety at mealtimes. I was thrilled and so relieved.

However, vegetables did not usually make the cut. In fact, they seemed to be completely invisible to him.

It was agonizing and took everything in me not to wave my hands and shout, “Look over here! These Almond Roasted Cauliflower are AMAZING! You’ll LOVE them!”.

Luckily, there’s a better way of teaching our kids to like vegetables.

It starts by shifting our focus from trying to get our kids to eat their vegetables at every meal, to taking a longer term approach that will set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

Here are 3 ways to remove kids’ negative associations with vegetables so they will want to try them on their own accord.

1. Stop being a short-order vegetable cook.

It is so tempting to serve vegetables that we know our kids will accept, like carrots or peas, in an effort to ensure that they eat at least some vegetables everyday – even if it’s the same ones.

We are driven by the belief that kids need vegetables in order to be healthy. Many nutritionists, however, say that children can be healthy by eating a variety of fruits instead for the time being.

It is our job to expose them consistently to new foods, including vegetables, without any pressure whatsoever. And as we all know, our kids can sense our angst or frustration over their food choices, even if we keep silent.

So, our job is to challenge ourselves to trust our kids to internally regulate what and how much they eat. And, remember that any form of pressure to eat more or less can backfire.

It’s perfectly okay to go on blind faith at the beginning. I did.

Over time, you will see that all children are capable of self-regulating their eating.

The more we trust them, the quicker they will get in touch with their natural desire to try a variety of food. And, yes, that includes vegetables.

Do this instead: Plan your meals by choosing 3 to 4 dishes, including a vegetable dish that goes with that meal. Allow your children to choose whether or not to eat it, and do not insist that they try it. Also, make sure that you only eat it yourself if you truly enjoy it, as you are their primary role models for how they will learn to like new foods.

2. Do not hide vegetables.

It is certainly okay to incorporate vegetables and other healthy ingredients into sauces, smoothies and other dishes.

But, we want to be careful about the message we are sending to our kids. Children often believe that vegetables must be really bad if we go through so much effort to force them to eat them.

Do this instead: Rather than trying to get them to eat vegetables, focus on creating fun experiences together with food. Cook together, taste ingredients alone and again in the final recipes, have your kids choose a vegetable dish to make from a cookbook, etc. Over time and without pressure, kids’ natural desire to try a wide variety of foods will become clear.

3. Serve vegetables the way YOU love them. And, often.

More than anything else, our kids are learning how to eat by watching us.

I love big chopped salads for lunch, but have never been a big fan of eating cold salad at dinnertime.

I used to force myself to eat them to “model” healthy eating for my son. But, it wasn’t authentic, and it wasn’t working.

Once I accepted this, I began making roasted vegetables, which my husband and I love to eat. I also searched for other recipes that genuinely appealed to me and/or my husband.

While my son still does not eat our favorite Almond Roasted Cauliflower, he has developed a liking for other roasted vegetables that we regularly make.

Just last week, after months of turning up his nose at balsamic roasted brussels sprouts, he tried one. And, then another. No fuss, no negative reaction. Just a taste while he told us about his day.

Do this instead: Take some time to discover how you truly enjoy vegetables. Once you find recipes that you love, serve these dishes often and don’t make a big deal about how good they are. Your children will absorb your joy and over time, they will authentically be interested in trying them, too.

Are you are ready to turn your child’s frustrating eating habits around? Claim one of my FREE Fussy to Foodie Coaching Sessions now! 

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