What’s the best vegetable for picky eaters? This is a good question, but in your pursuit to find ways to sneak in vegetables or to find better tasting vegetables or to cook vegetables in new ways, I want to reframe your solution.
It’s not about finding the best way to cook or shop or fool yourself. The best vegetable for picky eaters is to find the one they will follow to healthier eating.
Just like the carrot being held out for the donkey to follow, the best vegetable for picky eaters is the one they choose to lead them to making healthier food choices.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m saying that picky eaters are like stubborn donkeys or strong willed animals. Nor am I saying that you turn to bribing picky eaters with a proverbial reward.
What I am saying, the best vegetable for picky eaters, is you choosing to strive to understand, connect and respect what’s happening within their hearts when they turn their nose to your cooking.
What Makes Me an Expert on the Best Vegetable for Picky Eaters
I work professionally as a dietitian nutritionist who creates recipes to make healthy eating simple and delicious. Yet my education and experience don’t make me an expert at converting picky eaters.
I’m an expert because I was and can still be a picky eater. I have come a long way in trying new foods and learning to be more adventurous when it comes to eating.
Yet, there are still foods and circumstances that I lean on the picky eating side. I’m a work in progress, and will continue to work because I found my carrot, aka my best vegetable for picky eating.
The best carrot, or vegetable for your picky eater may differ from mine. But that’s not important. The vital piece is to strive for connection first and foremost.
Connection is the First Step Towards the Best Vegetable for Picky Eaters
I’m writing this article to the parents and/or guardians of picky eaters as a means to help you find peace and harmony. You are the food gatekeepers of the house, but your first responsibility is to connect.
Healthy food is extremely important in building a healthy, happy and prosperous child. And I encourage you to continue to give your very best to your child.
Yet, there is one thing that trumps healthy food when it comes to your child. Your child needs your presence and attention more than a healthy plate.
Picky eaters are people. They may be stubborn and strong willed, but this is when they need you to show up and listen. They need you to hear and embrace every part of them.
Is it a Vegetable for Picky Eaters or Something More?
A few years ago I was in a conversation with a good friend. She was saying that her child didn’t want to eat anything that was warmed up, or had a hot temperature. All food served had to be cold or cooled off.
At first it wasn’t a big deal until she continued about the difficulty of getting him to eat after she had made dinner. Everyone at home had to wait for his food to be cool, and theirs too, before they could eat.
Perplexed, I asked when did this temperature preference begin? Had it always been this way, even when he was a baby?
No, she responded. This preference began when he was a toddler. And this change came on suddenly without warning, she explained.
Perhaps, food was served to him at too hot of temperature which burnt his mouth, I suggested. And then followed up, now that he’s a little older have you asked him why he only wants to eat cold food?
Her eyes widened as she evaluated my estimated guess. She admitted that this could have happened, and then promised to talk with him about his temperature preferences.
This friendly conversation wasn’t about judgment or shame or remorse. When you are looking to find that proverbial best vegetable for picky eaters, remember there are many moving factors involved.
8 Factors to Consider When it Comes to Finding the Vegetable for Picky Eaters
Are you like the parent in the story above? You are a well meaning and nurturing parent who is giving her best but is shut down by a child’s food preference?
If yes, don’t lose hope. It could be a phase that he will grow out of. Or it could be more. Here are 8 possible causes for picky eating, and taking the time to understand will help you find that vegetable for picky eaters…
- Texture : The texture of food is a big deal to some palates. Think of how your ears hurt if someone scrapes a chalkboard. Well, food texture can also create a similar cringe in the mouth.
- Smell : Here’s another big one! Because flavor is so intertwined with smell, an off putting aroma will turn off the appetite. Plus, the smell may be perceived as repulsive.
- Taste : Even if your child tastes the food, they still may not like it. Remember taste buds change over time. And for children this change happens over years.
- Temperature : As mentioned in an earlier story, hot temperatures can lead to negative experiences. However, too cold may lead to mouth sensitivities which can cause the teeth to feel painful.
- Past Experience : Food is connected to memory. And as strange as it sounds, perhaps your child tried a particular food during an unpleasant time. It may not be the food but the past experience.
- Age, or Maturity : Picky eaters can be young children, but remember you were also a young child at one time. Sometimes it takes going through a stage of maturity before you’re ready.
- Scared, or Risk Taking : Eating foods, especially new foods is a risk. And this can be scary, just like riding a roller coaster or jumping off the diving board for the first time.
- Desire for Independence : Picky eaters sometimes are asserting independence. And even though this ruffles feathers, isn’t your goal to raise a child to be good at making her own decision?
Taking time to evaluate what’s underneath the picky preferences, like the factors above, is the correct pursuit when looking for the proverbial best vegetable for picky eaters.
Finding the Best Vegetable for Picky Eaters & 3 Tips to Eat Healthy Together
A good friend summed up her proverbial carrot, or her vegetable for picky eaters by stating “we do our best here.” With this statement, she is setting the example that to be healthy is not about perfection or blending in so to please or appease.
But being healthy is about showing up and giving our best. And freely giving others the room to do the same without shame. Whether you’re a picky eater or not, you deserve to be accepted for who you are.
You, the parent or guardian are the nutrition gatekeeper for the home. This is a big responsibility that can lead you to feeling confused and disappointed. However, I encourage you not to give up.
Simply reading this article is proof that you are doing your best. So here are 3 tips to help you find your best vegetable for picky eaters so that you can enjoy meals peacefully together.
First Vegetable for Picky Eaters : The Gift of Choice
We raise children to be independent. Perhaps your proverbial vegetable for picky eaters is not something he works toward, but a gift. The gift of choice is powerful.
And allowing children the gift of choice when it comes to food, is a good place to reinforce healthy independent decision making skills.
Here are a few ways you can facilitate healthy eating, decision making skills, and taking responsibility…
- Set a place in the kitchen
Place food bins with age-appropriate, enjoyable snacks in the pantry so that kids can make food choices. Also set a place for refillable cups and healthy beverages in the refrigerator.
- Allow choice when shopping
Consider attotting your child either a specific amount of money. For instance, I give $5-10 to each child when visiting the Farmers’ Market. Or a set number of food choices when food shopping. Like, pick 2 produce choices per grocery visit.
When entrusting money and food choices, you are handing over responsibility with a side of ‘I trust you and your choices.’
- Make space for meal time choices
Cook meals as planned but also have an opt out option available. For example, give the meal time choice of either meatloaf as the main option or a peanut butter jelly sandwich as the opt out.
To take it a step further, if your child is old enough, when making space for meal time choices, make it standard that she will have to prepare her own peanut butter jelly sandwich.
Again, provide the right to choose, but also back it up with taking the responsibility when going against the flow.
The bottom line for this first vegetable for picky eaters is that no one likes to be told what to do all the time. And this is especially true for something as personal as food choice.
Learning to make good choices is a skill that needs to be honed for every child. Allowing food to be the training zone to harness this skill may be the perfect vegetable for picky eaters to cultivate healthy habits and good character traits.
Second Vegetable for Picky Eaters : Invite & Include
Character traits like the ability to make good decisions and taking responsibility are qualities that you are working to nurture within your child. Yet another set of traits that are worth instilling are to become a person who invites and includes.
It’s admirable to be a person of character who can make room for different points of view while embracing respect and also upholding unity. To invite and include is to say, I see you and accept you for who you are.
To invite and include help to make this world better, and these qualities can be taught a second preverbal carrot, or vegetable for picky eaters. For example, consider the following…
- Invite and include in the meal planning process by asking your child to go with you to the grocery or farmers’ market. Before going, consider inviting him to help pick recipes. Then include him in the food list making process.
- Invite and include in the meal prepping process because for some, the most cherished memories were those that were made in the kitchen while preparing and sharing food.
Be creative to find ways to include every age in the kitchen. For
instance, my friend allows her young child to use a pizza cutter to
safely cut green leafy vegetables and other vegetables.
For more child friendly cooking ideas and a recipe to make, read my recipe post : Mini Strawberry Pies
- Invite and include feedback when it comes to your cooking. This suggestion may be challenging. But when you open yourself up to constructive feedback, you are able to grow. Plus others close to you will also benefit from your growth.
Thus, when I create a new recipe for my blog, I actively invite and include my children to submit feedback. Creating an atmosphere where he is the expert is a fun way to invite and include.
Allow your kitchen to be a place to learn not just healthy food habits, but also how to invite and include. Growing into a person who invites and includes may be the second perverabial vegetable for picky eaters.
Third Vegetable for Picky Eaters is to Remember You Matter to Your Child
Okay, I’ve admitted it but will say it again. I was a picky eater as a child, and continue to battle against picky eating at times. But the most important part of my journey is that I choose continual growth.
I start this section with the spotlight on me because here’s where my list for you to find the best vegetable for picky eaters may get personal to you. Yep, this is a call for you to take a good look at you.
Food preferences are personal, expressive, and can be intimate so again this is why my next suggestions may be challenging. Yet remember growth requires you to be uncomfortable.
If you are looking for the best vegetable for picky eaters so that you can raise healthy eaters, start with looking at you. Unbiasedly evaluate your eating habits, foods you eat and those you avoid.
You are the leader at home, and your example is teaching whether you know it or not.
A friend once told me that when raising her sons she never served peas because she hated them. Now that her boys are grown, she realizes that she inverterly passed on her own food bias of peas.
However, time has passed, and that she’s a grandmother, she is using this new chapter to eat, cook and lead differently.
Another friend told me that she uses dinner time as a place to try new foods, but more so a place to discuss how taste buds are always evolving. She went on to say, it’s a simple discussion about food facts and biology, but it’s never a fight.
Trying new foods to you in front of your child is a great example. Plus allowing open discussion about the experience is a wonderful way to teach and lead.
Even though you are looking for that perfect vegetable for picky eaters, don’t forget to examine your own food habits and preferences. Your child doesn’t need a perfect parent, moreover, they need you to be real.
Summing Up the Best Vegetable for Picky Eaters
Acceptance, unconditional love, and connection are the purpose of the family dinner table. And using the food as a means for physical, but more so personal character development is a strategy to consider.
Food is an expression of current personal preferences, but it also tells the story of the past. Most memories are made with food somewhere baked within. And these memories can be the making of a healthy, well rounded child.
So to add peace and harmony at dinner, consider what’s happening in your child’s heart and mind first. And then round it out by sprinkling in your presence and attention.
You matter more to your child than the food on the plate. And when you let that sink in, perhaps you have come to discover the best vegetable for picky eaters.
About the Author
Elizabeth Ray is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is on a mission to help you feel good about food! She believes food from the farm is best. And she is developing nutrition resources to help you discover the possibilities of real food that is grown/raised by the local farmer.
For more delicious, nutritious and adventurous recipes that are sourced from the farm, click here.
“May food from the local farm help you flourish!” – Elizabeth Ray Farmers Market Nutritionist