5. Parents as providers
Parent’s food preferences at the dining table have a great influence on the taste development of kids. Do you include lots of green vegetables and fruits in your diet? Are you setting a good example when it comes to food choices? It’s your model of eating that children learn to emulate. In one study low-income adolescent girls who saw their fathers consume milk had higher calcium intakes than those girls who did not see their fathers drink milk.
6. Feeding practices
Feeding practices have a great impact on children’s acceptance of vegetables. According to one study, breastfeeding and a longer duration of breastfeeding are linked to greater fruit and vegetable consumption in infancy.
Some parents strictly restrict children’s access to and intake of “unhealthy” or “junk” foods, while others use coercion and force-feeding to increase the intake of vegetables. Such practices can have negative effects on children’s food preferences. Do you use feeding practices that encourage the development of culturally appropriate eating patterns?
7. Current eating environment
Unlike decades ago, today most families have both parents working to make ends meet. Due to changes in employment and family structure, a lot of women are not able to fulfill the primary responsibility for feeding children and get less time to eat together at the family table. As a result young children are taken care of and fed by caretakers at out-of-home childcare homes or extended family members, who may or may not feed healthy food to children.
Most food that children of working parents eat is prepared and consumed away from home. This impacts children’s vegetable and overall dietary intakes. As they grow up they are exposed to large portions of palatable, energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods. If children are more exposed to ice creams, cake, and junk food, they are sure to ignore vegetables.
8. Children need instant energy
The energy requirement for children is more than what adults need. So, food in the form of glucose or something that is calorically dense and easily digestible attracts kids. Junk food appeals to a child’s “primordial tastes”. Children are more drawn to sweet and fast food because they provide instant energy, besides taste and satisfaction. Unfortunately, this contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic.
On the other hand, vegetables are not rich in calories and contain indigestible fiber that takes a long time to digest and meet the body’s fuel demands. That explains why kids with massive energy needs don’t like veggies.
9. Media influence
Some studies found a positive association between TV viewing and consumption of fried foods, sweets, pizza, and snacks. High television viewing time is inversely associated with fruit and vegetable consumption. Celebrities have a great impact on children’s minds. If your kids’ favorite superstars endorse fast food they are highly likely to develop a taste for pizzas and burgers rather than carrots and beans.
Kids tend to focus more on taste and satisfaction than health and fitness. So no matter how much you bribe them with desserts or over-praise them, they would not eat it when anything tasty is not served.
Now, that you know why your kids throw tantrums while eating vegetables, how can you fix it?
9 Strategies to help your child eat vegetables
1. Reduce the bitterness
To make the food kids-friendly, slightly add something fatty, sweet, or salty. The preparation methods of caramelizing, pickling, braising, and sautéeing can reduce bitterness in vegetables. Make sure not to add an extra layer of cheese to your vegetables! The goal is just to increase the palatability of a vegetable dish.