Monday, March 5, 2012

Asparagus is not "yucky"

I was in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I over heard a conversation between a mother and her (maybe) 5 year old son.  They were standing next to a large display of asparagus in the middle of the produce section.  Here's what I heard:

Boy: Mom, what's that?
Mom: It's Asparagus.
Boy: Can we get some?
Mom: No, Asparagus is yucky.

This small interchange really stuck in my craw.  It took all my will power to keep myself from rushing the asparagus stand and saying very loudly, "Asparagus?!  I love asparagus! And what a good price for this time of year! I can't wait to get this home!"  Unfortunately, though I do like asparagus, it just wasn't on my list that day.

I've been thinking a lot about why this bothered me so much. It occurred to me that it irritates me because I have such a hard time getting my kids to eat their vegetables. If my child asked if we could purchase something green from the produce section (even brussel sprouts, "yuck". tee hee) I'd be all for it.  If I didn't know how to prepare it, I'd go straight home and find a recipe online for it.  I'd do this because I am invested in my child exploring new tastes and experiences with food and not limiting his palette based on my own preferences.  He's already limited enough by my cooking skills;  I certainly shouldn't be denying him a healthy option or even turning him against it by calling it "yucky."

I'm no expert, but this line of thought got me thinking about ways I've discovered to get my kids to eat foods they claim to dislike on first sight. Aside from bribing, here are some tricks that have worked in this house.

Carrots give you super powers:
I just finished a great article entitled, "Raising Boys: A dad's parenting advice for moms." In the article, the author discusses the affinity that little boys have with superheros. He states, "Boys, even at a young age, realize the importance of super powers."  I've discovered this first hand with my oldest.  He is in a very serious Spiderman stage and is very interested in superheros.  One evening, during dinner, he decided that he was not going to eat his carrots, claiming, "I don't like them."  I leaned over and said, "Do you want to know a secret? Carrots give you super powers. They'll help you see in the dark."  Well, that did the trick, I've never seen him eat anything as fast as he downed those carrots.

There's a party in my tummy:
Occasionally,  we'll have a meal where the kids will eat almost everything and then not touch one or two items.  This is when an enthusiastic rendition of the Yo Gabba Gabba favorite comes in. "There's a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy."  In the song, the character Brobee neglects to eat the carrots and green beans on his plate. He discovers that the veggies are heart-broken that they haven't been invited to the party in his tummy.  This reasoning scores big with the toddler set. 
Don't underestimate the power of a favorite cartoon character:
I have tried and failed to get my kids to eat scrambled eggs several times over the years.  They wouldn't even touch them.  Enter one of their favorite characters: Caillou.  After watching a single episode, Buddy was begging me to make scrambled eggs.  In the show, Caillou gets to visit a farm and finds out where eggs come from.  Then he brings home some "chicken fresh eggs" and his mother scrambles them for him.   Well, I made the eggs and both Jellybean and Buddy gobbled them down.  Amazing.  Why can't I have that kind of influence all of the time? 

Choosing and Naming:
Unlike the "yucky asparagus parent," I've had pretty good success getting my kids to eat foods that they have had the opportunity to choose for themselves.  I got a great idea from a post on Make and Takes a while ago.  They purchased the book Eating the Alphabet and then made a goal to purchase some of the fruits and vegetables in the book to try.  I tried this experiment with kumquats.  It was fun letting them pick something new to try. Though, I will say that neither myself or my children were all that impressed by the taste of kumquat.  Still, it was a new experience and a fun one as well.

Allowing your child to re-name a food will make them more likely to eat it.  I'm sure you've heard the idea of calling broccoli "little trees." From the time we introduced milk to Buddy, we had to call it "moo-juice."  He was a fan of juice and not milk.  Funny how changing the name made all of the difference. Last night we ate "alien pasta." (pasta shells in white cheddar sauce with peas and tuna). It's weird how fast that pasta disappeared once I stated that it was from outerspace.
Asking the Opposite:
Are my toddlers the only kids out there that enjoy doing the exact opposite of what I tell them to do? When I get fed up, I will sometimes say, "Fine, I don't want you to eat your broccoli. You'd better not eat it."  This comment will be met with a giggle and then at least one bite of the offending vegetable. That sure showed me. 

Fine, I guess I'll eat it:
In our house, Buddy and Jellybean are extremely possessive about their food, even if they claim to dislike it.  If I take away the offending plate and throw it away? No problem.  If I *gasp* threaten to eat their food myself?  Major problem.  For some reason the statement, "fine, if you're not going to eat it, then I will," is intolerable. How dare I eat their food? This will usually cause them to eat at least some of their food just to prevent me from eating it.
Nothing is foolproof and obviously I'm blessed with kids that are "pretty good" eaters.  That said, any strategy I've employed has met with failure at least at some point.  What strategies have you come up with for getting your kids to eat their veggies and other healthy foods?? 

Just for your viewing pleasure:  8 Super Health Benefits of Asparagus


  1. Your strategies are priceless!

    I have a close relative who won't eat vegetables, and she is in her mid-30s. Neither does her husband. And now her daughter won't, either. O well, more for me! We've been noshing on asparagus for a couple of weeks. Can't wait until the local stuff pops up soon.

  2. I can't believe a mother would actually say, "No, asparagus is yucky!" If nothing else, just say, "Nope, it's not on our list today." Destroying a kid's interest and curiosity about healthy food sounds disastrous to me. Far too many people eat just the starchy veggies and ignore the ones with good nutritional content.

  3. Great post!!! I totally agree with you on using TV characters to influence them with food. My daughter loves Wonder Pets and since they eat celery, she eats them too :) And I also broccoli trees..and she calls them that too and eats them!! Thanks for sharing your insights with us at Sharing Saturday. Hope to see you again this week.