“Not I,” says our Little Man. “Me either!” replies Little Sister.
Trying to get my children to eat vegetables often makes me feel like Sam I Am from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. About one year ago, I was telling my friend about how the only vegetable my son would eat is Broccoli. French fries and Ketchup did not count in my book, if they did, those would be his favorites. A Speech Pathologist, she suggested that simply exposing them to a variety of vegetables on the table might perk their interest. I might even try setting something new on their plate and see if they’d just try it. It did not, after a week long trial. But the suggestion proved itself later.
In September, I learned that it was vital for me to get them to eat vegetables. My daughter had constant constipation, and I had gone to every expert I could think of to help her. Finally, I found a Traditional Chinese Herbalist. The Herbalist, herself a mother of four, firmly told me I had to get Little Sister to get her greens. She also suggested some herbal supplements, and taught me how to do some massaging to reduce intestinal and gas pains. It is working. My quest has since been to get more vegetables into both my Little Ones, 2 and 4 years old.
We have always had vegetables at lunch and dinner, and I personally feel best when I eat a salad several times a week. So, it’s not like we were total slackers. But, my husband prefers meat and potatoes. He’s since joined my quest and is my support when I feel like banging my head against the wall. One day I even broke down in tears after Little Sister was napping, because I was so stumped and felt like a failing mother. I had already spent two years in a row with my children gardening in a friend’s yard, because I wanted fresh produce and had learned a while back that if you get your kids in the garden they are more likely to eat from it. Not so with the Little Man. He loved picking Sweet Peas, Blueberries and Kale, but would hand them over to Little Sister for consumption. He’s just plain picky. Food can NOT touch on his plate, or it is ruined. He won’t eat. Little Sister is more adventurous but is just like Daddy and loves her meat and starches.
This week I was delighted when Little Sister tried steamed Celery and announced, “I like it, Mama!” If you had told me in September that she’d even ask, “More Kale, Mama?” during dinner, I would not have believed you. So, how did these miracles happen? Persistence, Patience and Negotiation.
Persistence: For each child, we knew what vegetables they would eat, and made it a practice to serve a vegetable at every meal, or as a snack. Then, we introduced a new vegetable each week. That new veggie showed up on our plates, than theirs, then in various forms. My Mother In Law suggested simply cutting veggies up in different shapes, and I remembered a few things my Mom used on my little sister growing up; like, Carrot Chips (cutting large Juicing Carrots at a slant so they are similar in shape to a Potato Chip). We kept trying until each child would simply try one bite of a new veggie. If they gave it three tries and didn’t like it, we’d move on. Both will eat Kale today.
Patience and Negotiation: These go together because as some parents may already know, even at 2 years old, children are expert negotiators. Their will power is enviable. We engaged in the negotiation process – serving vegetables and withholding the “meat treat” portion of a meal until they either tried the new vegetable or at the serving of vegetables we knew they liked. This tactic lasted about 2 months before they got the hang of trusting us most of the time, and obeying the simple request to try a vegetable or eat their vegetables on their plate. When they ask for more vegetables, it’s like sweet, sweet victory.
We still find ourselves using creativity to introduce new vegetables. But, they are fewer and farther between as the weeks go by. We can now serve portions of everything for each meal and don’t withhold meat or other “treats” that we know they like to eat. They get it. The Little Man will now eat 3 types of vegetables. Little Sister will eat 7. It’s a work in progress.
Do you have kids who eat their veggies? If so, what works for you? I’m always eager to learn more.
p.s. I’ve read a few books on sneaking veggies into your diet, and others on nutrition finding a few nuggets in each. Stay tuned for reviews of them.