Feeding children can be like riding a rollercoaster. Some days it’s exciting as they eat everything that is in front of them. Other days it is a downward slump; it is nearly impossible to get them to eat anything, especially vegetables.
Children can become picky eaters for several reasons.
- Some children are more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. Their taste buds have not been affected by prolonged salt, sugar, caffeine and other substances, so they can taste everything.
- Children may also develop picky eating habits by modelling their parents, siblings or peers.
- Culture also impacts taste. Sometimes, experimenting out of our usual cultural foods, creates a challenge. And not only for children.
So how do we encourage children to eat a variety of food, especially vegetables?
Studies have found that picky eating habits are more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children’s eating behaviours.
Grow food with your child/ren
Research tells us something many parents may already know, that when children are involved in growing, preparing and cooking their food, they are more likely to eat it.
Kids that grow greens, eat greens.
When young children learn to take care of growing plants, they develop a natural sense of curiosity. Children naturally experience the world through tasting, touching, smelling and feeling.
Growing food with child/ren is an enriching and satisfying activity. Gardening together strengthens the bond between family members and often to beautiful Mama Earth.
Teach your child to love and appreciate nature through gardening.
Sugar: Overeating sugar can lead to all sorts of problems in later life, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sugar also lowers the immune system. So every time a small child is eating sugar, the immune system is affected, making the child more prone to catching colds and other common infections.
Reducing the amount of sugar intake encourages children to start eating more vegetables as their tastebuds become more sensitive to the natural sweetness in vegetables. Sugary foods should be “sometimes foods”, that’s why we call them “treats”.
If possible avoid giving children any sugar until the age of three.
Let’s not forget the importance of protein. Protein is crucial for a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Without it, children’s growth can become stunted and experience learning difficulties. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it requires extra planning and cooking to ensure your child is eating the recommended daily intake of protein. My son is vegetarian by choice, and we are constantly coming up with new ideas. There are many great cookbooks out there to help plan meals.
Growing vegetables also means fresh organic produce to pick for the lunchbox. Child fun foods include snow peas, green peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, and baby corn. They can be easy and healthy lunch snacks. Follow this simple formula.
Lunch box formula = one serve of season fruit + raw or cooked season vegetable + serve of protein and fat.
Experiment and tell us how you go!
If you would like to mix garden adventures with homeschooling activities, See Chapter IV and V of the Planet Schooling Book – How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard. You can purchase here.