Getting kids to eat their vegetables

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 13, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
Parents know the battle of trying to get kids to eat their veggies.A new study now offers tips that are easy to swallow.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

What if kids liked green beans as much as chocolate bars? Ok, it's wishful thinking. But the new issue of the Journal Pediatrics brings reality to bear with a handy study on how to get kids on the healthy eating track more easily.

Edemame -- Japanese beans. Two-year-old Sela Emery actually likes eating them, as well as string beans.

"She's always liked vegetables," Sela's mom, Sophie Emery, said. "We're very lucky. She loves fruit. So any snack is always a fruit."

Not everyone can be as lucky. Most parents have to teach kids to eat and to like vegetables and fruit. But according to the study, the trick is to start in infancy and not give up.

"A lot of children and people have something called neophobia, and they're afraid of new foods, afraid of trying new foods," Dr. Susan Brodlie said. "And if you start it early, chances are you'll be more successful in getting them to eat them later on."

Here is a case in point...

Uma is 7 months old, the same age as the study babies, and also my granddaughter. A home video shows her eating her first solid food - green vegetables - and apparently, she likes it.

And if babies don't like it at first or make a face, keep trying. Serve some fruit, alternating with vegetables. On the 10th or 12th try, the baby might just eat it.

Also, try concealing vegetables in things like veggie burgers, which Sela likes, or mix fruits like peaches in Jell-O or fruit smoothies.

What parents eat has a big influence on what kids eat. If you rarely eat fruits and vegetables, don't be surprised if your kids develop the same tastes.

Parent are the best role models.

"Parents eating vegetables, it's definitely more likely that the children will be exposed to that on a regular basis," Dr. Brodlie said. "They will see their parent doing it, and they will be more likely to try it as well."

Some other tips: Let your older kids pick the fruits when you go shopping. It's harder to make vegetables palatable if you start after age 4, so mix them into lasagna, casseroles, chili soup or omelets.