It goes like this: you select all the best veggies on CSA pickup day. Driving home, the smell of tarragon whets your appetite as you anticipate the dinner to come. You get home, head to the kitchen, and roll up your sleeves. Thinly sliced beets and carrots hit the pan with a drizzle of oil and garlic, with kale soon to follow. Herbs are chopped, plates are readied, and finally with a voila!, a squeeze of lemon on top.
You bring the dish to the table, feeling full of culinary pride. And then…
“I’m not eating that, not even with sugar all over it.”
“Are you trying to make me throw up?!”
All this before they even take a bite.
Sure, we know how it goes. Kids are hesitant to try new things, and they’re certainly not shy about letting you know what they want. And yet childhood is when eating habits are formed, which will influence their health for the rest of their lives. As parents, we want our kids to eat right and reach their full potential. What does it take? Trickery? Threats?
Lots of us at the farm have kids, from infants to teenagers. Here’s what we do:
1. Start ’em young. They won’t know it’s weird to eat kale until it’s too late.
2. Make a family rule to taste everything at each meal once, and let kids decide if they a) like it a lot, b) like it a little, or c) don’t like it yet.
3. Veggies taste different cooked and fresh. There’s no harm keeping some of the carrots out of the stir fry for a kiddo who likes them crunchy.
4. Get them involved with growing dinner. If you can, plant a row of carrots, beets, and lettuce and give kids a job. Little kids can check for slugs each night, while older kids can be in charge of watering. If you can’t grow a garden, come to the farm for U-pick!
5. Be consistent, be patient, and model good eating habits yourself.
6. Only make one meal. No mac & cheese for complainers.
It’s important to remember that tastes are formed by habit, and that habits form through routine. If your kids turn something down once, don’t write it off forever. Be calm and enjoy your own meal.
Eventually, at some meal down the road, your child will eat something that will shock you. They will reach for the broccoli/kale/beets that they made a face at last week, and as they chew, they’ll say “Hmm, mommy, I guess I do like broccoli/kale/beets after all.” You might want to jump out of your chair, cackle, and high five yourself–but play it cool. Just say, “Hey, that’s great, kiddo. I always thought you might love it someday.”
(And then high five yourself when they go to bed!)