Help! My kid won't eat his veggies!!!
Whoaaaa! Take a big deep breath, smooth your feathers, and prepare to go to the dinner table just a little bit calmer tonight.... I don't know any parent that isn't familiar with the dinner time struggles. It's hard enough to prepare a meal and get it on the table. But the coaxing and coercing and promising and tricking can exhaust even the most steadfast among us. Let me first calm you down by reminding you that your child will NOT starve. It doesn't make biological sense for a child to starve themselves for the simple fact that it goes against continuation of species. That's not to say they will not drive you bat shit crazy until you would rather drive through a fast food joint than spend one ounce of energy preparing something at home.... they absolutely will. I should direct you to my original post about creating healthy eaters (It's HERE) to give you a starting point.This post, however, is specifically addressing the concern many parents have about feeding kids vegetables.
Veggies aren't really THAT important!
I said it.
We seem to have this idea that if we don't consume broccoli florets, green beans, and (God Forbid) kale in mass quantities that we will die some horrible death. The reality is that humans have existed, and thrived, in the tundra and in the desert for millennia. Additionally, as hunters and gatherers a giant bowl of salad was impossible. Green vegetables couldn't be stored, unless they were fermented, and this was very limiting beyond just what was collected at the time.
You can read about the characteristics of traditional diets HERE.
Children are programmed to reach preferentially for carbohydrates and fats. High quality fats and carbohydrates are essential for brain development and to meet the caloric needs of their constant activity. Additionally, vegetables take up precious space in a tiny tummy with little return on the investment (both of tummy space and your sanity).
What about Fiber? Antioxidants?? Vitamins???
Believe it or not, all of these beneficial components of diet can be acquired with very little inclusion of veggies.
Starchy tubers and starchy vegetables (the ones your kids are more likely to reach for) like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yucca, and plantains should take precedence over green veggies. These provide plenty of nutrients, resistant starch to feed gut flora(1), and a good dose of carbohydrates. The real winners, though, are high quality fats and meats. Organic (raw is even better) butter and whole milk from pastured cows(2), eggs from pastured chickens, bone broth from well sourced bones, and organ meats should take center stage. High quality meats (yes, the expensive ones) take a close second, along with fermented foods like whole (raw is best) yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, or fermented fruit. You can learn all about fermentation and more in the GREAT BOOK Nourishing Traditions. High quality fats (avocado, olives, coconut oil, and olive oil), berries, seeds, nuts, and fruits with peels (apples, pears, etc) will round out the diet.
Ummmm.... that's all well and good, but....
I know. You're not likely eating this way and doing so seems impossible. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. There are plenty of little ways to include these nutrient dense foods into your diet and start to change your child's palate.
- Make bone broth. Do this first. Use the best bones you can get your hands on. Locally, that's at Lakeland Organics. www.uswellnessmeats.com is good too (try the liverwurst). Put a little bone broth in everything you make... mashed sweet potatoes or potatoes, soups, sauces, rice and any cooked vegetables your kids might like. You can freeze the broth in silicone cups like THESE and pop them out to throw into anything.
- Buy the BEST Quality eggs and meats you can afford. Meats don't have to be huge portions when you bulk a meal with good fats and yummy starches. See the links above. I highly recommend the bacon ;-)
- Make foods that your child can have unlimited access to and then let them.... even if they don't eat their veggies. We make loaded smoothies and freeze them in reusable popsicle molds, date balls, cookie balls, chia pudding, peanut butter cups and banana bread.
- Put food on their plate even if you don't think they will eat it. A new fruit or starchy vegetable, a couple of olives, and a few chunks of avocado can easily appear on the plate every. single. time. They just might taste it and like it.
- Plant some edibles. There is no better way to get a kid to try a few veggies than to grow them in your yard. Carrots, sweet potatoes, herbs, avocados, and blueberries are a hit in my yard. The kids walk around picking, pulling and nibbling while they play!
- Use herbs and sauces. I would rather my kid eat a tablespoon of homemade pesto than a cup of veggies any day. Herbs are loaded with all the good stuff in super high doses. That's what creates the flavor! Pesto and chimichurri are favorites in our house. Pesto on gluten free or multi seed crackers is a fine compromise for me.
- DON'T FREAK THEM OUT! Put the food there. Taste it and mention how much you like it. Ask them if they would like a taste. Then leave it alone.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, work to transition your kids away from high sugar and processed foods. Broccoli will never ever ever stack up to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Doritos. Chemically enhanced and flavored foods are designed to make you want more of them, to excite the brain, and to dull the nutritional wisdom with which you were born.
Make changes slowly. Be steadfast and introduce foods many many times. Try new things. Separate yourself emotionally from the whole thing. We're all trying to do our best and every step in the right direction is a bonus for your kids!