Kids vs. Vegetables -- Can Parents Prevail?
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."
- Before age 2, parents should not restrict the amount of fat children eat,
but after that, children should get 20-30% of calories from fat and less than
10% from saturated fat.
- Most foods are an acquired taste, so parents should provide a variety of
healthy foods and try to get children to try at least one bite.
- Parents should not demand that their children to eat healthy foods but
should set a good example and teach them why different nutrients are important