Family Food Revolution: Eating Vegetables at Every Meal

***Today’s guest post is from Holli, who blogs at Scratch Treehouse. I requested this subject, since she had referred to her journey a few times in comments. I think most of us could use a little encouragement in the kids-eating-veggies department…. Thanks Holli!***

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I was eight months pregnant with baby number two. Baby number one wasn’t yet two years old and I decided he better start taking a multivitamin. He had become a very picky eater subsisting on grains and dairy and potatoes (if you count French fries as potatoes). He’d eat apples and fruit, but never vegetables. I rationalized that he must be getting some vitamins from all the veggies I ate while he was breastfeeding. But, as baby number two got closer to arriving, I knew I could not keep this up.

One day, I struggled to keep him contained in a big Super Vitamin store, and I felt some defeat. Here I was buying vitamins in a bottle because I couldn’t get my son to eat them from food. And I thought, thankfully, they make vitamins for kids that taste like candy.

Almost one year later, baby number two was starting to eat solids. She still breast-fed, but loved solid food too. She was not content with just soft mashed up carrots and apples. She had to try everything on my plate. Sometimes that meant steamed veggies, sometimes meat and grains. She started to show a preference for meat, dairy and grains. Without much outside influence she started to push away the veggies. And she was barely one-years-old.

During that same time frame, I started to notice her being constipated. At her 9 month check up I had noticed it and mentioned it to the doctor who assured me this was just normal for starting solid foods. By her 12-month check up, I was worried. Pooping had become a long, painful struggle. My daughter would hold it in until she couldn’t any longer and cry while pooping. I was sure something was wrong.

Then came 9 months of specialists, laxatives, natural practitioners and we only got to the point of her pooping once a week. Finally, I consulted a Chinese Herbalist who told me point blank: eat vegetables. And, there were a few extra things like herbs, but I felt like someone had shaken me up. Within 2 weeks she had improved to pooping twice a week.

That first week I struggled: How in the world could I get her or her brother to eat vegetables? I remembered one visit with a Naturopathic team where one intern suggested I increase vegetables in my daughter’s diet. I kept a food journal for her, religiously recording every single thing she ate for 9 months. Everyone praised me on how well she was eating except that one intern. Turns out she was right. So, that is what changed me from believing kids won’t eat veggies to knowing they need them like they need to be potty trained.

I cried my first day on the vegetable crusade in our house. I knew I needed help, so I checked out books from the library on how to sneak vegetables into recipes so kids will eat them. I tried a few recipes, but something was nagging at me. I wondered, if I’m hiding the vegetables, will they every really learn to eat them? It just felt wrong.

I shared my struggle with a girl friend who is a Speech Pathologist (she helps kids under 3 learn to eat who have developmental difficulty speaking or eating). She suggested some things:

1) Introduce one food for a week or more

2) Let them notice it on the table or your plate before making them eat it

3) Present the food in different ways: raw, cooked, etc

4) Don’t give up: try letting the kid feel it and watch you cook it, build curiosity

5) Keep at it

And so, I kept trying. My daughter was just over 2 years old when we started. She noticed the difference with pooping and started to understand that she needed veggies for good poops. Within a month she was eating a veggie serving at every meal. My son was more steadfast in his Picky Eater mindset. I knew he’d be harder to persuade since he’d grown up to that point not having to eat much of them.

I checked out some books from the library on vegetables so the kids would start to be curious about the different types. The ones that perked their interest the most were:

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie DePaola

The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons

I also adopted a spot on an elderly friend’s garden. I had heard that if you get kids in the garden where they can see things grow and help harvest, they’ll eat them too. Well, that certainly helped my daughter up her veggie intake, but my son was still a hard core Picky Eater.

Lucky for me I got the chance to try out the methods in a new book, “The No Cry Picky Eater Solution Book” by Elizabeth Pantly. I tried her suggestions before it was printed and slowly but surely, things began to change.

We got him to eat carrots, then broccoli. Just a few months ago, after a year and half of trying, he suddenly asked to try Peas. We all had some on our plate, and he only had his standard carrots. We have him a small portion, and he declared, “I LOVE them!” The funny thing is that I’d tried those as one of the first veggie for him to eat since they are sweet, but he forgot about his dislike. It’s been a long hard road, but I think it’s like anything else in parenting: we have to keep at it until they get it.

8 thoughts on “Family Food Revolution: Eating Vegetables at Every Meal

  1. Yay Holli!!! I was a snooty mum with my first – Ethan eats all and any vegetables, so ‘obviously’ it was because of my awesome parenting skills right? So now then, why doesn’t my second, Alice, eat anything green, or corn, or cabbage, or….and the list goes on?!

    It must come down to their taste buds, and slowly been given the chance to change their preferences. She gets all the exact same meals as Ethan, but pushes the colours aside an d focuses on the meat. It’s such a bugger!

    1. It’s really quite wonderful that your first loves his veggies. So, you can see with your second that it’s not just your efforts, but the fact that every kids is different:) All you can do is keep trying!

  2. Try also cruising the veggie aisles or the farmer’s market and admiring the veggies, taking tiny pinches to taste, talking with the farmers they are happy to give free tastes. Let THEM pick a new one to try at shopping visits. this worked pretty well for my little guy. soon they crave them and are willing to try new ones.

    1. That’s a great suggestion, Kate.

      My picky eater son knew almost all the veggies in the produce department at our Co-op, but it was a matter of will for him to try them:) He did, eventually, and now eats 5 different ones, but it really just took us trying and trying and not pushing too hard to get there.

  3. What a great story. I love Kylie’s comment too because they really are all different. I struggle with my two because while my first has never been a vegie eater, he does ok if they are mixed in things, like a spaghetti sauce. But my second loves her vegies, but only if they are all separate on her plate. If we have an all-in-one meal she won’t eat anything! And, she’s still in the narrowing down her flavours years, so if we don’t have something for a couple of seasons, next time it’s back on the table, she might reject it. Drives me nuts!

    1. Oh, man! My son was and still is the “picky eater” – I bought an Army Surplus tray with different compartments for foods to feed him on. He loved it! At about 4.5 when we started, he wouldn’t eat anything touching another food on his plate. So, we did the army tray for a few months, and now he’s okay with food touching, but it can’t be mixed.

      So, I cook things mostly separate (usually veggies with meat for extra flavor), and as I serve it up, serve his portions separate.

      Keep at it, they all grow out of it eventually (my hubby was one picky eater in his house)!

  4. The thing that I admire most here is your persistence in trying things over and over again in different forms, etc… I can have a hard time letting go of my attachment (the waste of food, the effort that went into preparation, etc.) and have (more than once!) gone down the guilt path of talking to my daughter about the farmer that grew the food, all the resources that went into getting it onto our plates, and so on… The next time I introduce eggplant, I’m going to channel you, Holli!

    1. I like that, Rebecca.
      My kids are too young to reason with the waste issue, but I like the idea of getting them to understand the work that goes into getting it on our table:) So, don’t dismiss the idea entirely! Just remember persistence helps even if it’s feeling like a lost cause.
      Thanks for chiming in!

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