Kids vs. Vegetables -- Can Parents Prevail?
WebMD News Archive
Get kids going with a healthy breakfast of cold cereal, skim milk, fruit,
whole-wheat toast and peanut butter, or whole-grain waffles, she advises. Smart
snacks include low-fat milk, graham crackers, apple slices or celery with
peanut butter, and dried fruit. Also, high-fiber oatmeal, pasta, fruits and
vegetables are essential.
Proximity is everything. Putting sliced apples or carrots within arm's reach
in the fridge -- better yet, on the kitchen counter -- almost ensures that kids
will eat them, Tom Baranowski, a behavioral nutrition professor at
Baylor/Children's Nutrition Research Center, tells WebMD. "Parents tells us
they've brought the good stuff into the house, that the kids will eat it if
they want it. That's not enough. If the carrots are still in the bag unwashed,
but cookies are readily available, guess which Johnny will reach for?"
Most foods are an acquired taste, Baranowski says. "There's a good
amount of neophobia, fear of new foods, in the early years. If you provide a
variety of foods at different times, and insist they take just one bite, you
can overcome that. There's some very nice research that shows that repeated
exposure with a bite increases the likelihood that children will like the food
over time, even broccoli."
Also, mom and dad need to set a good example by not shunning fruits and
vegetables themselves. "Kids are bright. They're going to see the
disconnect, the unwritten message that says, this stuff tastes terrible,"
Struggles ensue when parents are authoritarian, demanding that kids eat the
green stuff on the dinner plate. "You might get them to eat it then, but
when mom or dad aren't around, they won't do it because no one is
insisting," says Baranowski.
"No child is going to change behavior to prevent heart attack in 30
years," he says. "Lots of adults won't even do that. Tell kids that it
prevents weight gain, that nutrients are good for eyes and hair -- things that
are important to kids. You need to identify things that relevant to children
and emphasize them."
Among the vegetables kids like best are sweet-tasting carrots and corn;
favorite fruits are apples, bananas, and oranges. "Another rising star is
kiwi fruit. A fair number of kids say they like it," says Baranowski.
"The nice thing about giving kids reasons is that kids tend to internalize
the message. You can expect those kids to eat a healthier diet even when mom
and dad aren't around."