Picky Eaters

Ask the Nutritionist: Help! My Son Won't Eat Veggies!

My 7 year old son eats NO veggies, and hasn't since he threw up all his peas and his dinner in Kindergarten. I tried smoothies, raw carrots and edamame, which he refused and then puked up. It's all drama and a gag reflex, and incredibly hard not to be so mad, yell, etc. I obviously did something wrong when he was little, and now I am stuck. Any book suggestions, or advice would be much appreciated : ) Thank you!

I *totally* know what you mean! When my daughter was around 6 or 7 months old, a well-meaning babysitter gave her spoonful after spoonful of avocado (one of the few solid foods I had introduced to her at that time) until she threw them up. For a long time, she wouldn’t touch avocados. But she did eat other vegetables and fruits and generally had a balanced diet so I didn’t push it.

My best advice to you is: relax. What your son is doing is totally normal for kids his age. It doesn’t sound as though he has any swallowing problems, since you’ve introduced all kinds of tastes and textures, and it’s only vegetables he’s refusing. If you really want to be sure you can ask your MD for a referral to a therapist specializing in swallowing issues. What you have here is a classic case of a power struggle. The more you pressure, the more he will rebel, and the more he rebels the more frustrated you get…and the result is an out-of-control spiral.

Here’s how to get you and your family back on track: know your roles. According to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilities (www.ellynsatter.com), it is a parent’s job to provide what, when and where to eat. It is the child’s job to decide how much and – yes – whether to eat.  That is all. As a parent, don’t pressure, cajole, beg, barter or fight. Don’t give in to demands to fix something else just so he’ll eat something, nor give a snack later when he might be hungry after forgoing a meal. Calmly serve a plate, keep your eyes on your own plate, and when dinner is over, clear the plates.

Easier said than done, I know. But bite your tongue, stay strong, and trust that he will go back to exploring and perhaps accepting vegetables as part of his diet. According to experts, it takes anywhere from 8-20 exposures to a food before a person accepts it (notice that I didn’t say “like” it – but rather tries it and makes a firm decision about whether the food is something they will eat or something they truly do not like). Other tips that help increase acceptance of a food:

  • Serve the same food in different ways. Perhaps he hates raw baby carrots but likes cooked round carrot slices, or julienned carrots in salads.
  • Serve it with something he likes. Maybe mashed potatoes aren’t so bad when they’re on a plate next to slices of lean flank steak.
  • Be liberal with toppings, sauces and sides. Broccoli alone may be “meh” to your son, but topped with melted 2% cheddar cheese or dipped in ranch dressing – yeah!
  • Be a role model yourself. All of your efforts may be thwarted if your spouse or another person your son looks up to refuses to eat his or her vegetables – or worse – badmouths vegetables and calls them “yucky.”

I personally am opposed to “hiding” vegetables in foods, since it only reinforces the notion that vegetables need to be endured and not enjoyed. But if you’re really concerned about the quality of your child’s diet, and if he isn’t getting adequate vitamins and fiber from fruits or other healthy foods, then incorporating vegetables into cooked foods is an OK option. One of the reasons I like Mom Made Foods is that while the veggies are baked into the munchies and sides, you can also see the individual veggies (the peas in the Cheesy Mac) and taste the distinct flavors (like celery in the Turkey Meatballs).

For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing all the right things by being so concerned about your son’s health and nutrition!

If you have a question for our nutritionist, please contact us. 

Mom Made Munchies, a Lunchbox Hit

Is your child tired of finding the same old PB&J in the lunchbox day after day? Mom Made Munchies require even less preparation than a simple sandwich and will make lunch the highlight of your child's day! Mom Made Cheese Pizza, Chicken, Turkey Sausage, Bean Burrito and Apple Pie Munchies take less than 3 minutes to prepare. Better yet, they are organic, stuffed with veggies, and so delicious that your child will never know how healthy they are!

How to Prep a Munchie for a Lunchbox:

1. Remove plastic covering and wrap Munchie in paper towel.

2. Microwave wrapped Munchie on high for 1 minute or until hot.

For a crispier crust, we recommend heating the Munchie in a toaster oven for 2-3 minutes at 375˚.

3. Wrap Munchie in aluminum foil and place in lunch box (or Lunchskin, our favorite reusable bag!)

 

Send to school with your child. :)

Munchies are easy to prepare, healthy, and delicious. Our crust is made with whole grains and the sauce is made with vegetables, which makes it thicker so that it does not drip and make a mess! It also makes the Munchies more nutritious and flavorful.

Our Cheese Pizza Munchie is packed with sweet potato, butternut squash, cauliflower, real cheese and a yummy sauce. It is 100% organic.

Our Bean Burrito Munchie is filled with brown rice, corn, green pepper, real cheese and beans. It is 100% organic.

Our Chicken Munchie is filled with organic veggies, antibiotic-free chicken, beans, rice and real cheese.

Our Turkey Sausage Munchie is stuffed with organic veggies, antibiotic-free turkey sausage, real cheese and a yummy sauce.

Our Apple Pie Munchie is filled with organic apples and cinnamon. It tastes homemade and will be a favorite treat! It is 100% organic.

Happy Lunching! :)

Kids are So Darned Impressionable -- Especially with Food

My favorite expert/author on children and food is Ellyn Satter.  Her books "Child of Mine" and "How to Get Your Kids to Eat" are really good reads, especially for parents who are worried about how their kids eat.  She, and many other parenting experts and educators, talk about the power of modeling behavior that you want to see your children exhibit.  This is true if you want your kids to put their dirty clothes in a hamper, or hang up their coats after school; if mom or dad drop things on the floor or not is going to have a big impact on your child. I know this because I go mad in my house, keeping after my kids and their messy messy room, only to walk into mine and see clothes piled on the foot of the bed!  "Do as I say, not as I do" will drive parents mad until the end of time.  Because. It. Doesn't. Work.

So goes with food!   When my first son was a toddler, I wanted to do right by him and serve veggies and healthy foods, but I was pregnant and couldn't touch a green unless I wanted to become green, yet I was befuddled why he would not eat his veggies!  Of course, it could have been a normal developmental stage, but a lot of it, I'm sure, is because he wasn't being motivated by parental modeling.

Fast forward another 6 years, and that now 8 year old is still so impressionable!  At a recent party, I observed that he liked what his friend liked, and surprise surprise, he just happened to not like what his friend disliked!  Well, it he didn't just happen to dislike the same foods, he is an impressionable child who likes to please others.  He was modeling the behavior (trying new foods when others are trying) and opinions in lock step with his peers.  Maybe not an Oprah "ah ha!" moment, but it was a Jennifer "ah ha!" moment.  I thought, I need to get him eating around more good eaters.  I need to use this to my advantage.

Even more interesting to me was that my not-as-much-of-a-people-pleaser 6 year old was also super impressionable by his peers!  This is a child who will go a week without letting a veggie pass his lips; or anything with sauce; or anything new for that matter!  But at the party, he made a couple new (girl) friends and they were "good" eaters, and it was a food party, and I watched him eat and like what the girl was liking; and not like what she didn't like.  Amazing.

So I know that as a parent I need to model good eating, and I do.  My husband and I eat pretty well, make lots of healthy salads and cook a few times a week from scratch (nothing fancy, mind you, but home cooked food.)  We practice a type of food parenting that Ellyn Satter talks about (modeling good eating, offering variety, not forcing choices, etc.) but all of that good food parenting has yielded far less in terms of our kids trying new foods than that single party!

The question for me now is, what's next?  I obviously can't create a party every week for dinner.  Or can I?  Instead of ending play dates before dinner, should I have them during dinner?  And what do I do if the boys befriend worse eaters than they are?  Might I be tempting fate by inviting super picky eaters into my house?  Or do I need to just relish in the memories of one food party where my boys stretched themselves and their perhaps expanded their palates just a little bit?