Question about kids/teens and veggies - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-25-2009, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Growing up my mom generally cooked well balanced meals even if they weren't as healthy as I prefer to cook now. We always had veggies and I'm pretty sure me and my 2 brothers ate them. Of course we all had preferences, i hated spinach & my brother wouldn't eat carrots, but we didn't ban veggies altogether. Well, my DH is a youth minister and we serve the kids dinner every sunday night. They used to only eat pizza, but we wanted to change things up and offer more variety. Sometimes it's total junk like hotdogs & popcorn, other times it's more balanced homemade options that the parents cook. We want to provide veggies and salad but we've noticed that the kids really don't eat them. A couple weeks ago we had a 4th of july picnic them so we ordered KFC and had the parents bring a variety of sides. We practically had to beg the kids to eat any sides - even the fruit covered in whipped cream. Almost every single kid (including girls) piled their plate with chicken and that it! Then last week, we served chinese food. well, after all the kids got served I went to get myself some Beef with Broccoli and the dish was full of broccoli and NO beef - the kids had picked through the tray to get all the meat and left all the veggies. The thing I don't understand about this is that even though i wasn't health obsessed in H.S. and I definitely ate too many sweets, I still preferred a plate with a variety of foods and wouldn't completely avoid veggies. it seems that these 40-50 kids avoid veggies at all cost. So what's the deal? Was my family completely abnormal or do parents just not cook veggies for their kids anymore?
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Old 03-25-2009, 07:48 PM
 
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My teens tend to avoid a lot of veggies, despite having grown up being served them at every dinner and most lunches. I don't think it's that the parents don't serve them (although I'm sure there are some who don't) but that the kids are finding they are able to make the choice for themselves now, and they choose what tastes good to them rather than what they know is healthy.
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Old 03-25-2009, 08:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I get what you're saying, and this is what I assume they are doing but, I and my brothers when given the option of a variety of foods wouldn't just take a plate of chicken with nothing else on it - even when we were teens. And if served Beef & Broccoli (dripping in chinese sauce) wouldn't have picked out all the beef and deliberately avoided the broccoli. I guess i'm trying to figure out if things have changed or if me and my brothers were just really weird teenagers that actually ate vegetables.
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Old 03-25-2009, 08:39 PM
 
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I love vegetables but I still pick out the meat from beef and broccoli.

However I never avoided vegetables in my life, and when I wasn't having enough (in college, for example, when I ate a lot of fast food) I would start craving them.

I dunno, I think they'll be OK if they've been served veggies their whole lives.
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Old 03-25-2009, 08:56 PM
 
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That does seem a bit odd. DS1 loved veggies when he was a little kid. Over the years, he's lost interest in them...can't even begin to imagine a scene where he'd ask for a plate of veggies sticks as a snack, anymore. OTOH, he does eat some cooked carrots and brussels sprouts at Christmas dinner, and he has a helping of salad (just spring mix, usually) or veggie sticks every night at dinner. Depending on the veggie, if I do a cooked one, he'll eat a bit of it. We put out a tray of veggies at every birthday party (usually green & red pepper sticks, carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, broccoli & cauliflower florets, celery sticks and maybe cucumber rounds) and he usually has a least a few nibbles of that. None of his friends seem to be quite as veggie-resistant as what you're describing.

OTOH, I'm probably weird, too. I used to pick the broccoli out of beef and broccoli, and leave the beef...

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Old 03-25-2009, 08:56 PM
 
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I know for a while in high school (like a year or two) I would definitely pick out the meat more than the veggies. Sure I'd eat some veggies, but I'd eat ALL the meat. I think its a phase. Maybe their growing bodies need more protein? If they are otherwise eating healthy, (particularly the sugars) I think eventually they will eat more veggies if they have been exposed to good (aka not overcooked mushed gross) fresh veggies, and know how to get/make them. Now, if they're overall diet is poor, I think its harder for them to eat them, because in my expeirience, if your whole diet is poor, you are less tuned into what your body needs. If your eat pretty well (particularly with little sugar. for some reason it always messes me up on this), your body lets you know what it needs. they might not eat a lot of veggies, but if they're not getting enough of some vitamin, they might crave a vegetable that has it, even if they've never had that vegetable in their life. (Me and kale in my junior year of high school.... started a long term love affair lol)

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Old 03-25-2009, 08:59 PM
 
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I know for a while in high school (like a year or two) I would definitely pick out the meat more than the veggies. Sure I'd eat some veggies, but I'd eat ALL the meat. I think its a phase. Maybe their growing bodies need more protein?
I'm sure this is part of it. Right around the time ds1 hit his big growth spurt (35 pounds and 6" in 6 months), he massively increased his protein intake...at least double what it had been, and maybe even triple.

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Old 03-25-2009, 09:15 PM
 
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Pardon the novel... this is a subject I think about a lot.

I honestly think a lot of parents unintentionally teach their kids to dislike vegetables. Many families simply don't expose kids to a nice variety of veggies. It is so easy to stick with the grocery store top ten like potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, tomato, carrot... and to not encourage kids to get all that their bodies need.
How many daily servings are recommended? Is it 9 a day of fruit and veggies? Call it six servings of vegetables a day (and three of fruit). Do most parents even offer their kids vegetables that often? I very much doubt it. A lot of the people I know do not generally give two vegetables with lunch, two for snacks, and then two more for dinner. But how great would that be: carrot sticks and beets with lunch, snap peas and cucumber slices(celery) with snacks, steamed bok choi and green salads and dinner? The sinmple act of adults offering more and eating more veggies themselves can be realy beneficial.

Plenty of adults are not familiar with a lot of delicious produce and therefor can't introduce it to their kids. I see it all the time at the farmer's market. "What is that?! It looks like a space ship!" (Kohlrabi)." "Um..what exactly is that? (delicata squash) How do I cook it?" "I've seen kale all over but I have no idea what to do with it or how to cook it." It can be a real challenge, and very intimidating. Sadly, both the parents and kids miss out on a whole lot of food that they might have loved.

And then there are folks like my friend's mother, who overcooked every veggie she offered to her son as a kid so that he thought he hated most vegetables. Limp, soggy asparagus, mushy carrots, caned peas and green beans, ice burg lettuce with ranch dressing every night... you bet he hated vegetables! If I had grown up with veggies like that I would have hated them too and avoided them like the plague.

Then there is the media. Our media is simply chock full of messages that "kids hate vegetables." I see it in movies ("Brussels sprouts? YUCK!"). I've read it in books. And on TV: when is there a fun, funky, hip commercial for green beans or chinese greens? Never. Where is the commercial with the sexy teenage heart-throb extolling the virtues of cucumber salad? But you see them all the time for the latest processed crapola, for all the sugar cereals, for all the "name brand" products manufacturers hope to sell.
I remember as a kid being so confused and torn: I loved spinach but I remembered very clearly hearing that children weren't supposed to like it at all. So I was embarrassed, felt totally un-cool, didn't ever admit to liking it, and eventually talked myself out of enjoying it. Soon I was the one saying, "Ewwww! I hate spinach!" And I even believed it.I think i was 7 years old. Sad, huh?

..............................................
I try to take a different approach to food with my family.
At our house we treat vegetables like presents! Denali has been in the garden with me from an early age, and we'd exclaim over each veggie as it ripened. Watching them grow, participating, picking and eating vegetables fresh from the garden.. all of those things gave my daughter a love of veggies starting at age 1 1/2 years old. We talk about their beautiful colors, think of them as gifts from the plant for us.

In the market season (9 months of the year) we go to our farmers market twice a week to see what is in season. Since things don't stick around long it has become a treat for our daughter. She knows spring is asparagus time and has been asking for a month now, "Mama, is the asparagus ready yet?" She is so excited! I tell her, "Well, we could buy it at the groery store, but it won't be as tasty." And when we go to the market next month and get our first big bunch of the year it will be a big celebration for her. Same goes for the first new carrots, the first nettles, the first baby potatoes. I remember last year Denali went up to a stand and yelled, "Mama, come quick! They have pink and purple and white radishes! I want to get some!" The farmer applauded.

Sadly most modern kids don't get to have this kind of relationship with vegetables. Vegetables come from a grocery store, massed produced, and often not very flavorful. Where is the romance, the connection, the story behind the food? That may sound dopey, but I truly believe that kids (and adults) are hungry for connection and meaning, and are much more likely to love a food when they develop a relationship with it outside the cooler and the plastic produce bag. A child may not understand the concept of romance, but they thrive on it. The look of joy and delight on my daughter's face as she digs potatoes (treasure!) out of the ground is quite different than the look of indifference when we pick a bunch out russets of the bin at Safeway grocery store. How many kids get to experience that? Probably a larger number than normal on this forum, but how about overall in USA/Canada? Not too many, I'd wager.

There is an incredible organization in my city called GRuB (Garden raised Bounty). It is a farm that is dedicated to helping at-risk youth. The farm employs teenagers in not-so-good situations and teaches them about organic gardening and farming. The kids earn a wage through garden and farm work, running a farm stand, and hosting a CSA available to the community. In addition to to their pay they get boxes of vegetables to take home and some families get free raised bed gardens installed in their yard with free plants and seeds.
A lot of these kids wouldn't touch produce with a ten foot pole before GRuB: now they enjoy it, advocate it, and their families and community benefit from it. All the needed was the connection to the food source, the education to know what to do with with the food, and the encouragement of adults who know how good fresh food can be. Awesome!
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Old 03-25-2009, 09:40 PM
 
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In the market season (9 months of the year) we go to our farmers market twice a week to see what is in season. Since things don't stick around long it has become a treat for our daughter. She knows spring is asparagus time and has been asking for a month now, "Mama, is the asparagus ready yet?" She is so excited! I tell her, "Well, we could buy it at the groery store, but it won't be as tasty." And when we go to the market next month and get our first big bunch of the year it will be a big celebration for her. Same goes for the first new carrots, the first nettles, the first baby potatoes. I remember last year Denali went up to a stand and yelled, "Mama, come quick! They have pink and purple and white radishes! I want to get some!" The farmer applauded.

Sadly most modern kids don't get to have this kind of relationship with vegetables. Vegetables come from a grocery store, massed produced, and often not very flavorful.
I've got say that I get this, and it sounds cool, but...we shop at a grocery store. My kids still love vegetables. DD (my picky eater, oddly enough) is always asking me to buy some vegetable we haven't had before, and telling me to "ask on mothering how you make this". She loves lots of veggies, and is always interested in trying more of them. She'd have that exact same reaction about radishes (and never remembers from one year to the next that she doesn't like them, so I always buy a bunch and let her try again).

I have to say, though - I've had a similar reaction to the applause you describe. Other shoppers sometimes stare at my kids like they have two heads...you know - "is that little girl really beaming because her mom agreed to buy brussels sprouts?" kind of stuff. It's sort of funny.

The gardening thing is great, but not always feasible. And...I loved gardening with my mom as a child, but I have to admit that I think I have a brown thumb. I don't seem to have the knack, myself. I do want to see if my mom will let dd borrow a patch of her yard as a veggie garden, though.

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Old 03-25-2009, 09:49 PM
 
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I've got say that I get this, and it sounds cool, but...we shop at a grocery store. My kids still love vegetables. DD (my picky eater, oddly enough) is always asking me to buy some vegetable we haven't had before, and telling me to "ask on mothering how you make this". She loves lots of veggies, and is always interested in trying more of them. She'd have that exact same reaction about radishes (and never remembers from one year to the next that she doesn't like them, so I always buy a bunch and let her try again).

I have to say, though - I've had a similar reaction to the applause you describe. Other shoppers sometimes stare at my kids like they have two heads...you know - "is that little girl really beaming because her mom agreed to buy brussels sprouts?" kind of stuff. It's sort of funny.

The gardening thing is great, but not always feasible. And...I loved gardening with my mom as a child, but I have to admit that I think I have a brown thumb. I don't seem to have the knack, myself. I do want to see if my mom will let dd borrow a patch of her yard as a veggie garden, though.
Oh yes, the second section of my novel there is by no means the only way that children might come to love vegetables. (I do think paragraphs 1-4 can apply to a lot more of the population, though). One of my best friend's son (age 6) is a veggie fiend, and they can't garden and do most of the grocery shopping at a regular store. My friend simply cooks a lot of veggies (she is Vietnamese and makes a lot of super wonderful traditional foods loaded with veggies) and expects her kids to try them. She doesn't force it but they do have several veggies on the table at every single meal.
I do think that more of a connection with food is incredibly beneficial, but it definitely isn't for everyone, and a child can develop a great love of veggies without it, thanks to encourage parents (who don't cook everything to the mushy-yuckiness stage like my friend's mom!)
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Old 03-25-2009, 09:54 PM
 
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My five year old daughter loves vegetables, and will tell you so with enthusiasm. She loves shopping for them at the store, going to the farmer's market, and picking up the CSA box. She loves talking about the different vegetables, sorting and comparing them, and asking questions about how they're grown. She loves washing them, helping to prepare them them, and spooning them onto her plate.

She loves pretty much everything about vegetables... except for eating them.

Seriously, for a few years straight, the only vegetables she would eat were carrot sticks, corn on the cob, and certain types of pickles. With anything else, she'd take one bite and start gagging. She's done much better recently, since I took her off gluten and lowered her intake of starchy foods in general (in the hope of helping with her lifelong not-so-great digestion). Now she'll eat mushrooms and avocado, and small amounts of a couple of other vegetables. It's still nowhere near what I'd like her to be eating, but it's a start.

So, while I think Kristina's approach is great, I wouldn't necessarily say that parents or the media are to blame for vegetable aversions in children. Maybe some of the time, but there are clearly other factors at work. With my DD, I'm not sure if the grain foods were causing some sort of disorder that led to the aversions, or if she's just hungrier now (what with the lack of bread, oatmeal, and other filling carbohydrates) and more motivated to overcome her sensitivity to whatever she disliked about the taste or texture. Either way, it's not that she has a better "relationship" with vegetables. They've always been among her best friends.
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Old 03-25-2009, 10:13 PM
 
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Oh yes, the second section of my novel there is by no means the only way that children might come to love vegetables. (I do think paragraphs 1-4 can apply to a lot more of the population, though). One of my best friend's son (age 6) is a veggie fiend, and they can't garden and do most of the grocery shopping at a regular store. My friend simply cooks a lot of veggies (she is Vietnamese and makes a lot of super wonderful traditional foods loaded with veggies) and expects her kids to try them. She doesn't force it but they do have several veggies on the table at every single meal.
I do think that more of a connection with food is incredibly beneficial, but it definitely isn't for everyone, and a child can develop a great love of veggies without it, thanks to encourage parents (who don't cook everything to the mushy-yuckiness stage like my friend's mom!)
Yeah. My mom's mom did that, too. I think the ultra mushy veggies are starting to disappear - luckily. They're really not very good like that, not even the ones I really love. My cousin's husband said he never liked green beans, until my cousin cooked "squeaky beans" for him, and i know exactly what he means. DH is the same. He's not a huge veggie eater, but likes them much better when they're not overcooked. He also disliked salads when I met him, but had only had them with iceberg lettuce, not anything else.

I agree with you about the cultural expectation that children (and teens) won't like veggies, though. I don't think it's the only factor, but I think it does affect a lot of kids and the way they perceive veggies. And, it is sad that some kids see so few. I know one mom who, as far as I can tell (from having been there, having talked to her about what she eats, having grocery shopped with her, and having had her kids here), serves her kids no veggies except carrots...and no fruit, except apples, bananas and an occasional orange. It's just so alien to me...

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Old 03-26-2009, 02:50 PM
 
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I think many kids just don't get that many veggies at home and of course kids are hesitant to try anything unfamiliar. Most kids need to be introduced to something multiple times before them like it.

At my daughters' elementary school, we put in fresh salad bars and noticed that kids were mostly just taking croutons. We organized some taste tests and sampled sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, melon, garbanzo beans, etc. The taste tests were a big success. It was a great example of positive peer pressure. If I could get just one kid at a table to try the sugar snap peas, then suddenly everybody wanted to try them. Now a lot more kids are eating veggies off the salad bar -- though still could be a lot more . . .

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Old 03-26-2009, 03:00 PM
 
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I don't think it's that the parents don't serve them (although I'm sure there are some who don't) but that the kids are finding they are able to make the choice for themselves now, and they choose what tastes good to them rather than what they know is healthy.
I agree. I'm sure they would have eaten it if it had been served to them (placed on their plates), but they may not choose it if given the chance.

DD will eat any veggie (besides peas), but would she choose asparagus or cauliflower if she was dishing herself up at a party? Probably not. Of course, DS's would be almost ALL veggies.

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Old 03-26-2009, 03:51 PM
 
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I don't think it's that the parents don't serve them (although I'm sure there are some who don't) but that the kids are finding they are able to make the choice for themselves now, and they choose what tastes good to them rather than what they know is healthy.
Yep. I don't think a picnic or anything like that would be real representative of how kids eat at home. I know at those types of things, my 7 year old would pick out the meat, chips and maybe a pickle. He certainly doesn't eat that way at home.
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