The best way to end up with children who will eat vegetables is to offer them only vegetables for the first several years of their lives. You basically pretend that there is only one food group and that is…vegetables. Don’t introduce baby cereal, meat, grains, or even fruit, which is loaded with that horrible thing called sugar. *
Of course, for this plan to work, you have to practice what you preach. This means you yourself can eat only one thing: vegetables. Likewise, you also have to convince everyone in your life, basically your entire extended family, every single friend and friend of a friend, and really everyone and every business in your town, city, and county to only eat and offer vegetables around your children. If you find that people are uncooperative and do not share your dietary enlightenment…well, then your kids are going to discover foods that are not vegetables, such as pizza and gummy bears. Once this happens, there is no turning back. Most likely, you’re going to have to do this the hard way.
Yes, the chances are slim to none that your kids will choke down even one serving of vegetables per day, but we all still have to try. So here are some tips.
Facts and Logic: Confidently make informative statements like, “Vegetables contain vital nutrients that will help you grow strong and help to prevent sickness and disease.” Heads up: if you say this to your 13 month-old like I did, you will have to get out the scrapbook and record something truly momentous: Baby’s First Eye Roll.
Politeness: “Please eat your broccoli.” It’s worth a shot, but be aware that politeness is not a two way street. Sure, when your child says please, your heart opens like a gate – you’d say, do, or eat anything for this kid. But “please” is a big tip-off for children – it reveals how much you want them to comply; it steels their resolve and has a funny way of locking their little mouths shut.
Negotiation: “Look, if you finish those cucumbers, you can have some ice cream.” Granted, the latter completely cancels out the former, but you still get a few points for playing.
Refer to Pop Culture: “So there was this guy named Popeye who got really strong muscles when he ate his spinach…Okay granted, it was probably highly processed, cooked beyond recognition, and packed in a can…and yes he had a tattoo….and smoked a pipe. All right, never mind about him! Just eat a few leaves of that salad and I won’t turn into Bluto. Here, I’ll get you some olive oyl.”
Camouflage: This is a common trick. Cover vegetables with chocolate or, better yet, grate vegetables into a fine, practically imperceptible dust then bake into a cake. If your kids suspect anything or begin to dissect this otherwise delicious dessert to identify traces of zucchini, you must deny, deny, deny. After all, it’s for their own good.
Build Self Esteem: “You are SO GOOD at eating your vegetables.” This might work if your child is gullible. Most likely, however, your child is a genius: in order to keep those compliments coming, he or she will construct an invisible Rube Goldberg machine to carry these vegetables straight under the table to the depths of the trashcan.
*Note: I do not have a degree in nutrition nor any training in the field. But I’m a mom and my kid once ate a vegetable of his own accord. I know! I was shocked, too.
Jocelyn Jane Cox is a freelance writer and author. Her 2012 humor book on life in the New York suburbs, The Homeowner’s Guide to Greatness: How to handle natural disasters, design dilemmas and various infestations, is available on Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JocelynJaneCox.
The Chronicles of Parenting is sponsored by Blue Rock School.