Part true, part myth. Babies eat vegetables because they’re growing so fast they’ll try practically anything. Children who eat vegetables are more likely to have families that regularly buy, prepare and eat vegetables.
I’m not sure what the evolutionary advantage is to kids not liking vegetables. Humans, however, were programmed when food was scarce to go for three things: sugar, fat and salt. Vegetables were the things you ate when you couldn’t get your hands on the more calorie-dense items. And that’s the problem now. Everything is calorie dense except fruits and vegetables which is why they are key to a healthy diet and weight.
Serving size changes with age, but an easier yardstick is the plate itself. Half the meal should be fruits and vegetables. If you want specifics: for preschoolers, the serving size for vegetables is about one tablespoon per year of age. For 2-6 years of age, aim for a cup and a half of vegetables and a cup and a half of fruit a day. Kids 6-12 need two and a half cups of vegetables and a cup and a half of fruit.
When it comes to eating, parents get to decide 2 things: what to serve and when to serve it. Kids get to decide 2 things too: am I going to eat and how much. Avoid mealtime battles. Encourage kids to try things and/or take a small portion and leave it at that. Don’t allow them to “eat around” the healthy foods by offering unlimited rice, pasta, milk, or protein foods.
Make vegetables a bigger part of 2012 for your family.
Consider issuing a vegetable smack-down challenge: track the vegetables everyone in the family tries and award points for the most adventurous and maybe even a prize. Post standings on the refrigerator and enjoy some healthy competition!
Try the small plates adventure for the relucatant child. Find the smallest plate in the house–one for an action figure or a doll would be great–and serve the vegetable on this plate. Work your way up to slightly larger plates over time. Laughter is always a good way to try and diffuse kids’ negativity.
Great information about kids, nutrition and lunches from Children’s Hospital Oakland is here.
Recommendations from the OmniHeart Study for adult nutrition is here.
Happy New Year!