What won’t you do to get your child to eat his fair share of fruits and veggies? You’ll make “choo-choo” and airplane noises. You’ll spiral a spoon through the air until he’s so amused he doesn’t notice it slip into his mouth. You’ll beg, plead and cry. You’ll bribe and bargain. You’ll swear on your life and Big Bird’s that it tastes better than he thinks. And, you’ll lie. You’ll promise your child that he’s not eating a fruit or vegetable, when he actually is. You’ll hide cut up pieces of broccoli in otherwise “acceptable” dishes. You’ll find every possible way to disguise nutrition with a mask of fat and sugar. You’ll pray he doesn’t find out, and if you’re lucky, it will work. But, is that really a good thing?
While it’s true that deception will pave the way for better nutrition, it will also make a myriad of negative consequences more probable than not. Your child will miss out on the opportunity to develop a variety of tastes. He’ll grow up with stunted taste buds, desiring only the sweet, fatty joys of youth. If he does gravitate towards fruits and vegetables, he’ll do so only when they are smothered in other, more preferable foods. And, it’s possible that he’ll stop trusting you. Sooner or later, he’ll realize that macaroni and cheese shouldn’t have that butternut squash tang. When he does, he’ll feel betrayed. He’ll wonder what else you’ve lied about. The atmosphere in your home will be ruined, all for the sake of a green bean.
Rather than relying solely on deception (I am certainly not going to tell you to abandon it), employ a few other techniques. First, start young. As soon as he can eat table food, offer him a plethora of fruits and vegetables, and let him see you eating them. A child’s preferences are molded, at least partially, by the parents’ habits. If an apple never crosses your lips, it’s a good bet it won’t cross his. Also, make fruits and vegetables fun. There are games, activities and interactive stories that will connect produce with smiles. But even with the games, ease into it. Don’t expect him to suddenly develop a love of zucchini. It’s going to take time and convincing. A good first step is making something like zucchini bread and being open about the nutritional content. This way, you will show your child that fruits and vegetables really can be described as yummy.