This weekend I went out for dinner with a couple of girlfriends that I have not seen in AGES.
We always chat about our relationships, our irks, our passions, and this time, we happened to talk about food. My ears perked and I found myself sitting up a bit straighter as we shared thoughts about meal prep, dinners, and challenges.
One friend confided that she hates/detests/loathes making dinner for her family. Why? Because they complained about the taste of the dinners that she made and they don’t like vegetables. However, she wants to provide a healthy dinner and wants them to appreciate the time and energy it took her to pull everything together. But here’s the thing…. They just don’t like vegetables.
I hate liver. If you feed me liver every night because it is good for me, I will hate it and will do everything humanly possible to NOT eat it. I will sacrifice the chocolate dessert if I have to.
Why would this situation be any different?
Let’s Talk Values
I grew up in a household where I was told that in order to get dessert, I had to eat everything on my plate, including my veggies. In fact, my dad had a famous phrase: “Carolynne. Eat your carrots. They’ll put hair on your chest.” Of course, I would laugh, but I hated eating those freakin’ carrots. However, the chocolate pudding was worth it.
My parents instilled the value at a very young age, that eating veggies were good for me, they were healthy. And if I wanted to grow big and strong, I HAD to eat my veggies.
Fast forward to me being a mom with 2 kids of my own, I did the best I could to ensure they were eating a wide variety of veggies. It was a battle. Katelyn enjoyed vegetables, so that was fine, but Nate just stopped eating them one day and didn’t look back. I stressed. I mean, I REALLY stressed, however, in actuality, it was guilt. Eating veggies was a value that was ingrained in me and my thoughts immediately went to, “Well, I am a horrible mother.” They then went down a completely irrational spiral…What kind of a mom am I where my own child will not eat healthy food? He is not going to get enough nutrients. He will not be able to fight a cold. He will grow weak and not have enough energy to get through the day. He will get scurvy and die. I will be charged with negligence and lose Katelyn to Children’s Aid Society.
All because he wouldn’t eat his green beans.
Give. It. Up.
Nate is 13 and not only did he not get scurvy, but he is also a thriving, energetic, effervescent kid who can run circles around us all. Do I feed him veggies? Sometimes. He likes brussel sprouts with pancetta, peppers in fajitas, and the odd carrot with ranch dressing. Does he eat veggies every day? Absolutely not.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I want you to look at your kids and evaluate if the Battle of the Veg is worth it. And I am also going to throw some curveballs at you to let you off your own hook. Secret? The Battle is not worth it. Give. It. Up.
Nutrients From Other Sources
Vitamins and minerals that are in veggies are also found in other foods your kids are eating. Beans and chicken are great sources of energy, meaning if they are not eating broccoli, they are getting the energy they need from other food they are eating. Think about what other foods your kid is eating. Processed chicken fingers for lunch every day with cookies and pizza every night? No? As long as there is some fruit, grains, beans, nuts, dairy, fish, and meat, your kid is fine. Just fine.
Fruits contain tons of vitamins and minerals, so it’s alright if your little one doesn’t eat their asparagus. But as a rule of thumb, continue to expose and offer veggies. Have patience. Continue to introduce whatever you are making and even introduce new veggies to your kid.
If your child is not a fan of fruit OR veggies, think about a multivitamin powder to sprinkle on sandwiches.
Veggies are one factor when thinking about your kid’s overall health. Let me say that again-One Factor. More important is your child’s physical activity, sleep, and fluid intake throughout the day. These are factors that lead to overall health.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Your child watches you. Every move and of course, what you eat. One day, they may shock you by trying a stick of asparagus or celery simply because they watch you do it. Eating behaviors develop through social learning during childhood, so practice what you preach. And if your kid opts to pass on the green beans? Don’t let it get to you. It’s just fine.
The Buds Change Over Time
I remember the first time I tried a tomato. I was a tween and my mom ate them all the time, so I popped a slice in my mouth. It was slimy, seedy and the taste was nasty! I did not touch a tomato again until I was 26. Now, I love tomatoes. Taste buds change over time even into adulthood. Besides, when your kid goes to a friend’s house, they may feel like expanding their flavor horizons and this will continue well into the adult years.
Let. It. Go.
Listen, there are so many other things to stress about. Don’t let your child’s veggie intake be one of them. Kids are resilient and they will not perish because they didn’t eat the pepper, nor will they collapse if they didn’t eat the cauliflower. Ask yourself why you are getting so wound up about your little one’s diet and if it is because of YOUR values that were instilled in you, take a step back. And ask yourself why the Battle of the Veg is worth it. Secret? It’s not. They will survive and not only that, they will flourish. Promise.
Some content of this blog was adapted from Cara Rosenbloom and Aaron Lindzon, a Paediatrician