By Dina R. Rose
If you're having trouble "selling" your kids on vegetables, ask yourself how often you give them Goldfish crackers.
No, I don't have a personal vendetta against Goldfish crackers. I actually think they're quite tasty. (And I LOVE the new Goldfish sandwich bread . . . have you seen it?) On the other hand, Goldfish crackers aren't all they're cracked up to be. They have basically the same nutrition profile as most potato chips -- minus a few grams of fat.
But Goldfish crackers, and all the other "child-friendly" foods, are important to consider in the veggie "struggle" because they have a profound effect on your children's taste buds -- and not in a good way.
A recent study shows that when children favor foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt they typically don't like natural flavored foods. Foods like vegetables.
If you give your children a lot of sweet, salty, and high fat foods throughout the day, these are the flavors their taste buds will come to expect.
Sadly, most "child-friendly" foods are high in sugar, salt, and fat. This is true of sweetened yogurt, apple juice, pizza, cheese and . . . Goldfish Crackers.
So here's some counterintuitive advice: don't worry so much about vegetables. Instead, pay attention to all the other foods you regularly feed your kids.
If you don't consciously shape your kids' taste buds to like vegetables you'll end up teaching them to dislike vegetables instead.
Don't believe me? Chart all the foods your kids eat for a couple of days, noting whether they are sweet, salty or full of fat. Go ahead. I dare you!
Then, compare those flavors to the vegetables you're serving up. See the difference?
Most parents think of themselves as Nutrient-Provides and Detectives, but they really should think of themselves as Taste-bud Shapers.
It's not just the number of times your kids eat peas that determines whether or not they like peas. It's the cumulative effect of all the foods they're exposed to -- throughout the day, the week, the year, their life. Every bite counts.
Paying attention to every bite sounds like a burden, I know. It's not as bad as it seems. If you start thinking about foods from the habits perspective you can give up thinking about nutrition. No joke. It's practically impossible to expand your children's palates beyond sugar, salt and fat without running into healthy food.
You can train your kids' taste buds in the right direction with a few simple steps.
- Gradually wean your kids away from sugar, salt, and fat.
- Temporarily add sugar, salt or fat to veggies so they taste more like the other stuff.
- Shift your children's daily diet towards more fresh, natural foods.
- Use "child-friendly" foods as occasional treats.
-- Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits
© 2011 Dina R. Rose author of the popular blog It's Not About Nutrition
Dina R. Rose is the author of the popular blogIt's Not About Nutrition. She has a PhD in sociology from Duke University and more than fifteen years' experience in teaching and research. After her mother's premature death from obesity-related illnesses at the age of 65, Dina knew she wanted to give her daughter a better -- and happier -- food-life. Dina made helping parents solve their kids' eating problems her life work. Most parents know what their children should eat, but have trouble putting this knowledge into practice. Dina offers parents the relief they need: practical, research-based strategies so they can stop struggling and start succeeding.