Someone is going to read this and feel personally attacked. Someone is going to disagree and share how their kids are unique or different. Someone is going to argue that this is ridiculous without reading the column.
That’s the nature of food, kids and parenting. It’s personal. We take anything said about this triad to heart, as if it’s spoken directly about us, because most parents are just doing the best they can. Getting our kids to eat well can feel like the ultimate thing we cannot control no matter how hard we try.
So, let me instead begin by saying that I get it. I, too, am doing the best I can. And I, too, have kids who are different. They adore fruit and vegetables — despite having one parent who didn’t eat them much when they were young. (Hint: it wasn’t me.) Despite that, I don’t really know the secret to getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies. As far as I am concerned, mine just do.
Nonetheless, some information crossed my desk that is worth sharing and considering.
Researchers in Finland studied the impact of parental eating habits on kids and found that when both parents model the vigorous eating of fruits and vegetables, their kids eat more fruits and veggies.
In other words, lead by example when it comes to a healthy diet.
The study, “Fruit and vegetable consumption among 3–5-year-old Finnish children and their parents: Is there an association?” is being published in the June 2020 issue of Food Quality and Preference.
The study looked at raw and cooked vegetables, berries and other fruits separately. Some of the key findings were that the consumption of raw veggies and fruit were the highest. It seems that kids (and parents) tend to eat more of those. Also, while the mother’s and children’s consumptions of all four food types were closely associated, the father’s consumption of cooked veggies was closely associated with the children’s.
In other words, to encourage kids to eat more steamed broccoli, roasted cauliflower and sauteed onions, both parents need to eat them in front of the kids. This type of behavior modeling positively impacts how kids view cooked veggies. If we don’t — if parents turn their nose up to cooked veggies but expect kids to eat them anyway — then maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they don’t.
Of course, some parents can do everything right — modeling the best of behaviors — and still have kids who think Veggie Straws qualify as leafy greens. That doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself up for success though, does it?
BDN Senior Editor Sarah Walker Caron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.