Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to get yor fussy eater to eat vegetables

Guest post by Bronwyn, part of the Grasshoppers team. 

It’s easy to forget, but adults can be fussy about their veggies too. Around this time of year, there is often a debate about whether sprouts should be loved or hated and whether parsnips are delicious or deadly.

Having said that, some children aren’t just complaining about the odd sprout or carrot, many refuse to eat anything that comes from the ground. While this can be frustrating for parents, it’s important to remember that there are often reasons behind your child’s eating habits.

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Getting your fussy child to eat vegetables isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy either.


Reasons behind fussy eaters
The first thing parents need to remember is that your child is not avoiding vegetables just to annoy you.

Research says, there are two main reasons for fussy eating behaviour: being afraid to try new foods – known as neophobia – and a preference for sweet tastes. 

If you think about it, it’s easy to see a dislike of bitter foods in children. While you might live off a diet of dark chocolate and coffee later in life, they are two foods that children tend to hate.

This is apparently instilled in us as a defence mechanism to prevent us from eating poisonous foods at a time when children may have picked berries straight from the plant. Bitter foods were likely to be poisonous, whereas sweet foods were usually considered safe and nutritional.

The second reason, called neophobia, doesn’t usually start until children are around two years old. This is also the age when children are no longer reliant on their mother’s breast milk and so by avoiding new foods, they are protecting themselves from unsafe food.

Top tips for eating vegetables

  1. Set a good example
Why do you think your child will eat new foods if you won’t? Children often follow in the footsteps of their parents, meaning that if vegetables don’t appear on your plate, they’ll start to question why. Remember, young children only know what they are taught.

  1. Let them join in
By allowing the kids to get involved with the process of shopping, preparing and cooking, they’re far more likely to be interested in eating it. Whether they’re picking the ingredients in the supermarket or washing vegetables, it’s good for them to join in in any way they can.

  1. Make vegetables sweeter
As mentioned, one of the reasons for disliking vegetables is the bitter taste. However, by adding honey or lemon juice to the veggies, it will make them seem sweet. You could also choose to serve them raw as most are sweeter before they’re cooked.

  1. Don’t force them to clear the plate
You might remember being told that if you didn’t finish your dinner, you would eat it for breakfast, but this is not a good method. Forcing your child to eat something they don’t want will only create a negative atmosphere and in turn, negative associations with the food in question.

  1. Try the ‘one bite’ rule
It may not be beneficial to force them to clear the plate, but encouraging them to eat one bite of all food served is a good way to increase exposure. It has been found that kids have to try rejected food up to 10 times before accepting it.

These are five great ways to start getting your fussy child to eat vegetables, but most importantly, keep at it.


Bronwyn is a member of the Grasshopper Jumping Castle team. Grasshoppers is a Brisbane-based jumping castle hire company specialising in fun and good times. We hire castles and zorb balls for parties and events of all shape and size. We'd love to hear from you, so please get in touch by email at: info@grasshoppercastles.com.au and phone: 0438 737 332

20 comments:

  1. The perfect post I need! We have a fussy veggie eater in our household. I try to encourage him to take a teeny tiny bit of the green bits. It's a slow process though. Baby steps at a time.

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    1. It is baby steps and a consistent attempt at getting them to just try. Good luck :)

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  2. Very interesting post. I have a child who didn't start eating his veggies until he was almost four (I kept serving them and one day he was ready to try!) And one that would happily eat carrots (raw or cooked) fr every meal for the rest of her life!

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    1. Izzy used to love her (cooked) veggies. She is all about raw mostly, so salads are the go. It's the texture of the cooked veggie that she doesn't like I think.

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  3. Great post Alicia. We have been lucky in that regard. Our kids ask for carrots for their afternoon snack. It helps that we grow some of our own veggies (although I'm no green finger). My daughter just loves her veggies and my son is reasonably good at it which makes my heart sing! Some great tips there. x

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    1. All the credit goes to Bronwyn for that post.
      Mine both love home grown raw carrots. Izzy will not eat cooked veggies, she prefers fresh and crunchy rather than mushy. I haven't been able to get her to eat mashed spud for ages! The only cooked veggie she will eat is corn on the cob. I am thankful that she will eat fresh salads.

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  4. I'd never heard of 'neophobia' before - what a great word (but what a frustrating thing to deal with as a parent!!). My son is definitely more interested in raw vegetables than he is in cooked ones. Adding honey to them is a great idea.

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    1. I haven't tried honey yet. I think it is the texture of cooked veggies that Izzy doesn't like. She will eat fresh veggies no worries. I don't have any problems with Summer, she will eat just about everything! Fingers crossed. Izzy used to like her, so I am expecting Summer to change her tastes soon, hopefully not. Neophobia is a new word for me too :)

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  5. These are great ideas...especially the one about the "one bite rule" My boys aren't completely fussy but I know they could try a few more different foods.

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    1. I have no problems with Summer, at 2 she will eat just about everything, even beetroot! Izzy is my fussy one, she used to be so good too. At lest she is into raw veggies, I caught her stripping and eating leaves from one of our home grown cabbages and she will eat coleslaw. I think it is texture with her.

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  6. We do the one bite rule with all the foods they dislike. They don't have to eat a whole serve but one mushroom has to go on the plate whenever they are served. My thinking is that as their tastes evolve they may come to enjoy that particular food and if they are not trying it every now and then, how are they to know? Great post; very helpful!

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    1. Exactly. Hubby always says why do you put it on her plate? Because I say, one of these days she may decide she likes it!

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  7. The one bite rule is fantastic and will so help me with my daughter. Thank you for the great tips.

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    1. All we can do is persevere. We all have our likes and dislikes, sometimes it doesn't hurt to try something new. I know how frustrating dinner time can be just getting them to have just one bite!!

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  8. There's some great tips there! I work in childcare and I love any helpful ideas I can pass on to parents. :-)

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  9. Fantastic that Bronwyn could pass on some awesome tips :)

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  10. Such great ideas! I always love to put vegies into sausage rolls and no-one ever knows! xx Lucy from Bake Play Smile

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  11. This is just what I needed to ready after another difficult struggle with Dora at dinner time tonight. I also need to get a lock on the fridge (to keep her out and maybe me too - hehe)!

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