Issue 98 is out now
Leanne Patrick

By Leanne Patrick

30th March 2014

If there’s one worry that most parents share, it’s that their child isn’t getting enough veg in their diet. Whether it’s none at all, or a very limited selection, children being reluctant to eat vegetables is incredibly common. So common, in fact, that there is a natural explanation for this long-observed “problem”. Since vegetables tend to be quite bitter, they are often an acquired taste. Particularly as children’s taste buds are considerably more sensitive to flavours. So, what might not taste so strong to you or I might be very intense for a child.

Leanne Patrick

By Leanne Patrick

30th March 2014

Leanne Patrick

By Leanne Patrick

30th March 2014

This bitterness, in natural terms, was something that helped to deter us from poisonous or harmful foods so children have evolved to be more wary, since they are more vulnerable and more sensitive to flavour, which goes a long way to explaining the tricky relationship many children have with veggies.

But, at what point does it become a problem?
Vegetables are an excellent source of essential nutrients that the body needs to function optimally. However, a child’s requirements are often much less than we think – particularly if we reduce their consumption of wheat based products such as bread and pasta which render many vitamins and minerals bio-UNavailable. Essentially, this inhibits our body from absorbing these nutrients effectively. Without them in our diets, we are better able to utilise these nutrients in surprisingly low quantities.

Some of the most essential components of a child’s diet include saturated fats and proteins in order to sustain their growing bodies/brains and to allow efficient absorption of fat soluble vitamins. When we consider that breastmilk is 55% saturated fat, it is quite surprising that mainstream wisdom would suggest saturated fats suddenly become unhealthy at an arbitrary age. Most recent science, and increasing numbers of heart experts, are repeatedly demonstrating just how healthful and, even, essential saturated fats are in the diets of human beings; with young children requiring more than most to sustain their optimal growth and healthy development.

So, what does a growing child need in order to be healthy when it comes to vegetables?
Surprisingly little is the simple answer. Most adults can be easily sustained and perfectly healthy with some herbal tea, spinach, dark chocolate, herbs and spices and a selection of berries to meet their plant-based nutritional needs. Children are much the same. Spinach, in particular, is an excellent digestive aid alongside providing betaine, magnesium, potassium and heaps more. Drk chocolate and berries provide essential phytonutrients and tea/herbs/spices provide a broad variety of essential vitamins and minerals. But, this is based on the diet of a meat-eating child or adult who is getting many of their essential nutrients from animal products. A vegetarian or vegan child will, naturally, require a broader range of vegetables and foodstuffs and potential supplementation.

For the average child, however, a fussier veg-hater might appreciate a berry smoothie made with coconut milk and sweetened with raw honey or maple syrup. You can also dip spinach in hummus as spinach is quite a bland flavour when raw. Teas can be mixed into fruit juice ice lollies and herbs/spices thrown into all manner of home cooked meals. So, if your child is able to take in even this modest seeming diet of vegetables then there is little cause for concern. Most outgrow the fussiness by their teenage years and certainly by adulthood, particularly if they are raised in a household where both parents eat vegetables; vegetables are offered to them regularly and discussions about their health benefits are common.

It can be easy to let our worries get the better of us, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that a large number of true food aversions or problems are rooted in the anxieties of parents and their increasingly erratic and frustrated/pushy behaviours regarding their child’s eating habits/food variety. The trick is to not make an issue of their fussy behaviour and go with the flow as much as possible. Chances are, they’re getting significantly more nutrients than you realise.

Recommended reading: My Child Won’t Eat

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