It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that there is a war against vegetables. Vegetables are still not popular or eagerly welcomed by our 4-year-old. And let’s be honest, they are not cool. You can’t make billions from selling Carrots or Zucchini. You don’t see billboards of Movie Stars or Sports Heros smiling while holding a bunch of Collard Greens or looking sexy while taking a bite of a salad.
My little kids have just started to notice billboards. They ask me what they are about. Hmmm, that lady in a slinky red dress with a wine glass is selling wine. I answer with basic truth, and avoid describing what else I suspect is being sold like the sexy image or appeal.
But that is what got me thinking: peer pressure works just like advertising. Why aren’t we using it to fight childhood obesity or inspire everyone to eat better? Instead, I find myself censoring my kids from obnoxious cartoons or the networks that show them, because I don’t want them to beg me for every toy or new cereal or processed snack shown every two minutes.
During one of the first episodes of Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” TV show, you saw that the processed, prepackaged Public School lunches were cheaper that buying raw ingredients. We’re not talking Organic food here, just simple real foods that required more time to prepare than simply opening packages and using a microwave.
I know, I know that it’s true: eating real food that includes vegetables costs more time and sometimes money. Yes, I also understand how marketing and economics works. That is why I am trying to train my kids to eat healthy and understand how important food is while they are young. Because the hard truth is that I cannot censor them from real life. A life full of clever advertising trying to tell you what you NEED. They need to learn to think critically for themselves in order to make smart choices.
If you are wondering how our little battle is going on at home, I have a report to share. We’re still using the same strategy I explained before. Our daughter just exclaimed the other day, “I love Kale, Mama.” She likes it lightly steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. I wish I could say the same for her brother. His willingness to eat one of three vegetables changes from meal to meal. The other day we had a battle over broccoli.
I am working on a new plan of attack. His preschool has unused raised beds waiting for someone to use for gardening, and I am willing to make that happen. Hopefully peer excitement will ignite some willingness to try new vegetables. We’ve already spent the last two years gardening at a friend’s house and growing Kale, Peas, Broccoli and gleaning extra Collards, Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Strawberries. While my son has been willing to help harvest and enjoys digging in the dirt, he’s never wanted to eat any of it except the Strawberries.
And I’ve already got books on hold from the Library – full of how to teach your kids about nutrition – my hope is to learn something, but I don’t expect a perfect solution. As some really well educated folks have already pointed out, our national health crisis hasn’t been helped by education.
Maybe my battle will be helped by taking my son to see the movie: Mars Needs Moms, because supposedly it starts out with the Mom trying to get her son to eat vegetables. The truth is, I’m willing to experiment, but not beat myself up over this. One mom I know offered some comfort when she advised that it’s an age thing – here daughter magically started eating vegetables after turning 5. I don’t know if anyone has the right answer for us, but I am willing to look for something that works.