Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chew On This

As moms of fairweather eaters, we will sometimes do anything to get them to eat healthy foods and snacks because, hey, we've got to make every bite count right? Now that Aedan is starting to communicate his opinions of "I like it" or "I don't want it" I am getting worried about the oh-so-embarrassing scenes yet to come where we will be out in public or worse, at a friends house for dinner, when he might exclaim, "This is yucky! I don't want to eat that, it looks gross!" Maybe this is the way I was brought up or maybe it is Chinese culture or both, but we were never to express those kind of comments at the dinner table for to do so would bring shame to the family tree, or just hurt my mom's feelings. I've noticed that I get that way too, even though it is nothing personal, you slave in the kitchen to prepare something you hold near and dear and to have it critiqued by a toddler mouth is, at times, far from uplifting.

I was just at the doctor's office and read an article entitled Stealth Vegetable Smackdown by Catherine Newman. It was a pretty fun read and while a lot of it seemed sort of common sense to me I still came away with a fresh outlook on mealtime. I've read a lot of wonderful ideas from other sources on how to hide veggies in just about anything to add that extra bit of nutrition. However this article argues that "sneaking wholesome purées into your children's food may acquaint their bodies with valuable vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients, but it does not acquaint their palates with vegetables', well, vegetableness. How will they ever learn to like vegetables if the vegetables are always — to quote The Godfather — disappeared?" Don't get me wrong, I am all for adding nutrition to a meal whenever I can. I especially enjoy hiding veggies in desserts to add goodness and to take away guilt. I am a sucker for zucchini bread, I crave the carrot cake, and I never refuse a fabulous chocolate beet cake.

But to get my little "no"-machine to try a veggie to develop the appreciation for vegetableness? That is the real challenge, one that may take many many years to conquer. This article brings up a point about communication being an essential ingredient - helping the child find more polite ways to pass if they are particular, or complimenting them when they do try something. I do like the idea that we (and I say we because I think parents need to set an example) have to try everything offered at least once. Sure there are lines we wont cross there - if something smells way too fishy, I am better to pass than to attempt a bite only to throw it all up. I must say this is a work-in-progress for us as Aedan will often refuse food based on look. Maybe he was traumatized by our April fools food from current and past years...

Neal tries new ways to get Aedan to eat his veggie baby food. Aedan 8 months old (pic taken Mar 2007)

Oh and something about seafood for me: my mom used to hide fish (I didn't like fish) in meals and called it chicken. When I found out it was really fish I got all upset and never wanted to eat fish ever again and I always had to question what I was eating (until I knew better, that is). Something to think about when you are hiding foods the kids already dislike, it surely can backfire. I am getting better but I still gag on the really strong stuff.

So I would love any fun ideas you might have to get your kids to eat vegetables that look like vegetables or at least ways to help them not embarrass me too much when we are out to eat :) Please, no veggie tales, I can't stand them (and this is no secret either). The article mentioned earlier came with some recipes so I may try them sometime.


  1. AnonymousJune 12, 2008

    a couple of months ago I invited over my neice (who gets along well with Danny) and did a preschool lesson on gardens. I had a plate with all sorts of veggies and fruits on it that we all sampled, even the adults. Before this point, Danny had never tried ANY vegetable, and he's over 3. I was amazed that just him watching his cousin try things gave him enough courage to take a teeny bite of a carrot and a grape. That sounds pathetic, but for Danny it was a miracle! I think sometimes kids (especially the first kid in a family) need to watch other kids eat things like that. Of course, Danny is in a category all on his own and has issues to deal with, but I know and understand all too well how frustating this can be. Sounds like you are doing a great job!

  2. Dear Jackie:
    I am Kevin Turley's Mom. I've been visiting with him about something that has nothing to do with this blog - but he suggested I contact you. If you would please e-mail me I'd really appreciate it and we can discuss it that way.

    Thank you,
    Margaret Turley

  3. I have to secretly show Aedan our two DVDs of Veggie Tales (that were gifted us by my twin bro) whenever Jackie is away... Alas, the last time I tried this, though, Aedan was asleep two minutes into the movie. Oh well. At least he'll eat his veggies occasionally, especially when they are approaching his mouth in a "chugga-chugga-choo-CHOO" style!

  4. Roman doesn't like his veggies much either or his fruit for that matter but he does like a few.... carrots, broccoli, apples and grapefruit. So I feed him those whenever I can and I'm grateful that he at least likes those. Sometimes I think it's better to avoid the fight than have them rebel for the sake of being right. :)We also get the V8 fusion juice. 100% juice with fruit and veggies and he likes it.


Thanks for your comment, pop in again soon!