Are you conditioning your kids to hate vegetables?
How we talk to and act around our children may be playing a role in their food preferences.
Kids hating vegetables is one of the most common problems I hear people say. We seem to put so much emphasis on how much or how little vegetables our children eat, because we know how important they are for our health. But what if how you talk to your children and your actions are actually conditioning your kids to hate vegetables?
Here are 6 examples you might be actually making your kids’ hate their veggies:
1. You’re constantly nagging
You’re not alone if you have tried to nag your children into eating vegetables. ‘You need to eat your vegetables’, ‘eat your broccoli’, ‘just try three mouthfuls’!
Nagging your children to do something naturally repels them because it is directly associated with something they don’t want to or like to do. It’s not like you’re going to be nagging them to eat an ice cream or watch TV for the next hour anytime soon.
2. Emphasising the health benefits
At my son’s sports class the coach always says ‘You’ll only get muscles if you eat your vegetables’. My parents used to say ‘You’ll grow really tall if you eat your broccoli’. We all know these little promises are not the truth. Sure, vegetables have amazing health benefits, but when eating a serve of broccoli every night doesn’t make your child the tallest in their class, they will start to question your claims.
Stop emphasising the health benefits. Young kids don’t care about the health benefits and although we want to educate them, the key is getting them to enjoy healthy food. Kids focus on three things when it comes to food and that’s how it looks, tastes and the level of satisfaction they get from eating it.
3. Bribery isn’t associated with enjoyment
When all else fails, try bribery right? Your child eats three more bites of veggies, they get dessert. Many parents do this for every meal, but it actually further emphasises to them that vegetables are undesirable. All your child is thinking while they are eating those three mouthfuls is trying to keep them down so they don’t gag and then they can get something much tastier to eat!
In fact, research shows that the majority of kids who were forced to eat certain veggies during their childhood, ended up hating them in adulthood.
4. You’re hiding their veggies
Google it and I’m sure you will find plenty of recipes that sneak veggies in so they have no idea they are actually eating something healthy. I like to try and put vegetables in as many meals as possible, but I never hide it. Why? Because I want my son to know that vegetables can be used in so many ways and the things they are in can be really tasty. If you do use veggies hidden in recipes they love, next time you make it encourage your children to help you. They might be surprised at how tasting muffins with beetroot in them can be!
5. You’re a picky eater
Kids mimic our behaviours, so if you’re a picky eater, chances are your kids will be too. Not just that, if you have poor connotations to certain foods or food groups, your child will often have the same. I don’t like cheese for example, and for a long time my son also said he didn’t like cheese even though he hadn’t ever eaten it.
You probably want to have a look at your own issues with foods, if you want to have a positive influence on your child’s eating behaviour.
6. You’re rewarding your kids for eating veggies
Praising your kids for eating their spinach may work in the short term, but in the long run it can unravel. Research has found that after being rewarded for each time they did something that they already enjoyed, the kid’s motivation deflates and they end up losing interest.
This can be applied to sports, music or any other activities where you might find yourself praising your child, not just food.
Yes, there are children who will naturally prefer eating vegetables over others, but our behaviour as parents has a real impact on their opinion of food. Emphasising how important it is that your children eat certain foods can often make them hate vegetables in the long run.