Life as a parent isn’t easy every day with kids who refuse to brush their teeth or who are allergic to the idea of tidying their room. Do your children hate vegetables and are reluctant to try unknown foods? No doubt, they suffer from food neophobia! This is simply a fear of new foods that can even make them feel like they hate foods they are trying or haven’t even tasted. As a result, they sulk, balk, spit or chew for a long time, making faces. Sometimes, they even refuse to taste… But this is not a whim! This reluctance often appears around the age of 2 or 3, even in children who used to eat everything. In short, it is a normal phenomenon! However, it is not a fatality. Grandma has some ideas on how to get children to eat vegetables instead of the usual pasta and ketchup.
Why do many children suffer from food neophobia and refuse to eat vegetables?
He multiplies the famous “I don’t like it” without having tasted? The neophobic child is neither capricious nor ill-bred: it is a feeling that he cannot control. In fact, children have more taste buds than adults and they are much more sensitive. In fact, testing a dish or a food is much more intense for them. This is why negotiating, insisting, forcing or punishing a child will not lead to anything. This “familiarization” (if you can call it that) is counter-indicated and counter-productive, risking to increase the reluctance and reducing to nothing the pleasure of eating with his family. And it is out of the question to blackmail the dessert or to give up by replacing the rejected food… So, what can you do to make your children eat vegetables gently? We tell you everything you need to know to avoid limiting yourself to pasta and carrot peas!
1. The basic trick to getting kids to eat vegetables: lead by example!
2. Familiarize the child with the food that has been rejected more than once
Familiarization by presenting a food several times is very important. Introducing a food several times will allow it to become familiar to him and therefore less suspicious! In two words: if he knows it, he will want to taste it more easily. According to experts, it takes about 15 exposures (with a little wait between each one) for the child to get used to it. To do this, insist that they taste as little as possible and do not offer a substitute dish. In addition, don’t hesitate to present fruit at other times than for dessert, always with the aim of familiarization. Whether it’s displayed in a fruit basket on a counter for a snack, after sports, as a snack or for lunch, every opportunity is good to present the food. And above all, don’t give up: patience is the key!
3. Involve them in the purchase and preparation of food to overcome their reluctance
Of course, it is possible to involve our little ones in the preparation of meals. For example, we can give simple and non-dangerous tasks to these real little chefs who will love to cook like adults. It will take a little more time, but it is really worth it (especially since it will make them more autonomous little by little). However, they can also learn about food in other ways. With its smells, its colors and all the senses awakened, the market is also a great place for little ones. Here, they can be asked to help choose products for future meals. They will also love to discover where vegetables come from and how they grow through gardening and picking activities. In short, everything is good to familiarize and make them appreciate what they are about to eat.
Fun idea: This immersion in nature can also be accompanied by fun activities such as taste workshops where he will have to recognize foods with his eyes closed or blindfolded.
4. Multiply the shapes, presentations and textures to get children to eat vegetables
Mixing foods is often not very effective, as children will sort through and keep only the foods they like. In addition, this prevents them from really discovering the taste of each vegetable individually. So, it’s better to play on the presentation! For example, some fresh vegetables can be eaten raw at the beginning of the meal with a yogurt sauce. This way, the child can pick and eat with his hands, which is always attractive. Sticks or pieces of carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini… But you can also play with colors, associations and originality to attract his eyes and make him hungry.
For example, have fun creating smiling men or scenes on the plate. If you don’t feel like an artist ready to make food art to make the kids eat vegetables, at least bet on colorful and greedy plates! You can also use cookie cutters to cut food into funny animal shapes. For fruits, it is sometimes enough to peel and cut them well. This will make them less “impressive” than a whole fruit to bite into.
5. Different dishes to get kids to eat vegetables
Parents often become masters in the art of camouflage to deal with little food neophobes. To do this, they have to compete with inventiveness and trickery to present fruits and vegetables differently. For example, there are:
- French fries, doughnuts, chips and fried food in general (carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes…)
- Or vegetables made into pasta, such as zucchini that has been peeled to make spaghetti
- You can also associate them with foods that they like and know well as long as you cut small pieces. This way, they won’t even feel like they have any on their plate. Here, you can combine vegetables and Gruyere cheese in flans, lasagna, omelettes, pies, savoury cakes, quiches and vegetable gratins or add them to your fresh tomato sauce. You’ve never slipped spinach into savoury waffles filled with ham and cheese or salmon? You should try it!
- In addition, think about puree or compote, which allow you to vary the textures and are pleasant and soft in the mouth. Finally, cold and hot soups such as veloutés will help them “sneak in” the foods they don’t like as much. The velouté is an opportunity to make them eat more difficult green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, endives or spinach!