Getting Your Child To Eat Vegetables

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 3:11pm

By Erica Lesperance, RD, LD

How to handle kids that are picky eaters  

Have you ever spent your dinner hour begging, pleading with, or cajoling your child to take just one bite of her broccoli? You know all the tricks. You play "here comes the airplane." You make her sit at the table until she abides by the one bite rule. You bribe her with dessert. Or you give in and offer her something you know she will eat.

Your child is picky. She just won't eat anything except corn, potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. On the one hand, you are concerned she is not healthy because she isn't eating her vegetables. On the other hand, you are afraid she will starve if you don't give her something that she will agree to eat. Many parents today find themselves in this very predicament, wondering how they will ever get their child to eat vegetables. The answer lies in focusing less attention on a child's pickiness and more on creating a healthy mealtime routine.

Provide regular meals and snacks

Planning and sticking to a regular routine of meal and snack times that your child can rely on will go a long way toward helping your child have a nutritionally optimal diet.

Offer a variety of foods at each meal, chosen by you

Include some foods you know your child likes and some that she has not tried or in which she has not expressed interest.

Allow your child the freedom to choose from the variety you have offered

You offer green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, and chicken. Your child only wants mashed potatoes. Respect her decision.

Do not resort to games, bribes or pressure

You may win the battle over one bite of broccoli, but you will lose the war. This will not result in the development of healthy eating habits. In fact, pressuring your child can negatively impact her eating habits.

Do not let kids eat whatever snacks they want outside of meal time

You determine which foods are served and when meal and snack times will be. Letting your child have free reign of the refrigerator will ruin her appetite and will limit her desire to taste a new food at mealtime.

Do not cook to order

You have offered a variety of foods for your whole family for dinner. If your child knows you will make her a grilled cheese upon request, it is unlikely that she will try any unfamiliar foods provided. If she chooses not to eat the provided foods, that is her choice. If she is hungry enough, she will eat what everyone else is eating.

Set a good example and eat vegetables

If you want your child to eat vegetables, you must eat vegetables. If you are going to tell your child she can't eat potato chips every day, then neither can you.

Offer foods many times

Most children will try a new food after being offered it 10 to 15 times. If your child does not like spinach, continue to offer it in small amounts once or twice a week. Do not draw attention to it if she does or does not eat it. Just keep offering it.

Kids naturally balance their diet

It is important to remember that most children do not eat a balanced diet each day and toddlers only eat one to two full meals per day. Over the course of a week, however, a child's intake balances out. As long as your child is growing and learning appropriately and has a normal energy level, she is likely getting all the nourishment she needs. Focusing on creating an environment that fosters healthful mealtime behaviors in your home will help your child maintain healthy eating habits and an appropriate weight throughout life. Implementing the suggestions above does not guarantee that your picky child will undergo an overnight transformation and become a good eater. However, if you are consistent with your mealtime routine, you are sure to see changes over time.

Also see:  Making Fruit and Vegetables Fun to Eat and Coping and Compromising With Kids Who Are Picky Eaters.