We all know how important vegetable intake is, but also we know how notoriously low our general consumption is! All this advice on the benefits of getting more veggies into our diet, but how come we still don’t bite the bullet and get enough? Research is pointing to kids believing that vegetables simply don’t taste good.
It starts with early negative conditioning. Here are five ways this negative conditioning happens, resulting in the misconception that vegetables taste terrible!
1. Vegetables are not linked to eating enjoyment
From the earliest of ages, kids are told to eat your vegetables as they’re good for you. At these ages, kids don’t have a value for health, what they actually value is taste. So when they view eating a certain food as bringing benefits they don’t really care about, they are of course less likely to want to consume them. Research was conducted where kids were told to eat crackers that were healthy, and subsequently ate less compared to when researchers said nothing or mentioned they were tasty.
Kids assume that a food can’t be bother healthy and tasty. It’s one or the other.
2. Nagging naturally repels
Saying “you need to eat your vegetables” and pushing them on your kids rarely works, and if it does, it’s in the short term. This creates a massive negative association in the mind of your child that vegetables eating is like a chore.
“One study revealed that parents who used strategies like encouraging kids to eat when not hungry and rewarding them for taking bites saw an immediate increase in intake but a decrease in preference for fruits and vegetables.” //raisehealthyeaters.com
3. No one is forced or bribed to do something enjoyable
If pointing out the health benefits and then nagging doesn’t work, we sometimes force kids to eat them. This is done by withholding dessert or keeping them at the table until they eat a certain portion of their veggies. This reinforces the notion that veggies are universally undesirable.
4. When all else fails, sneak them!
Sneaking veggies into your kids food can work, but if they’re spotted, it’s the end of the road. Now they will be certain they’re ‘bad’, if they have to sneak them into my potatoes!
5. Over praising kids for veggie eating
This is one most people won’t think of. But research has shown that kids shown praise for doing something they already enjoy, have a decrease in internal motivation to keep doing it.
This can backfire as pointed out by Gwen Dewar, PhD on Parenting Science:
…suppose that Adam loves to eat broccoli. But every time he eats broccoli, his mom praises him for it. Consciously or unconsciously, Adam starts to question his motivation. Is he eating broccoli only for the praise? Adam changes his attitude toward broccoli-eating. It’s a chore, not a pleasure. If the praise ends, Adam loses interest in eating broccoli
If you want to raise a child who loves veggies, a different approach must be taken. But think of it like anything else you child does well – it’ll take time and persistence. Keep at it.