A lot of the time, it seems like my kids don’t eat. Oh, sure, they’ll put the occasional cracker or apple slice in their mouths, and once in a while they’ll have some yogurt. But the rest of the time, they appear to live on air and sheer force of will. And yet, they’re healthy. They’re doing all the stuff they should be doing. They just pick at their food.
I think my kids are pretty typical. A lot of kids eat much less than the adults around them think they should, and show no ill effects. But we, their parents, find it nerve-wracking and aggravating. We wish they would just eat a vegetable already. Don’t they know that vegetables are healthy? Don’t they know that they need them to grow up big and strong and all that jazz?
An entire store devoted to fruit and vegetables my kids will complain about eating
There are cookbooks and food companies and cartoons and all manner of media devoted to getting children to eat vegetables. You can find tips and tricks to make veggies more appealing, recipes for hiding veggies in baked goods, and any number of dips and sauces that are designed to mask the vegetable taste so kids won’t object. Clearly, we are all highly invested in getting our kids to consume vegetables, and our kids are highly invested in not consuming vegetables.
If so many kids refuse to eat their veggies and show no ill effects, I have to wonder if it’s really a problem. Are we all malnourished, unhealthy and unable to function because of vegetable deficiency? Not that I’ve seen.
I’m not debating the health benefits of vegetables. Eating lots of veggies may reduce your risk of cancer. They are high in all sorts of nutrients and fiber, and low in fat and calories. And if you’re preparing meals with lots of vegetables, you’re probably cooking from scratch and avoiding packaged and processed foods and all the salt and preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients they contain.
I made a salad, and my kids refused to eat it
But. But but but. Just as it’s possible to meet all of your nutritional needs without eating meat, or consuming dairy products, or whatever it is that you don’t let pass your lips, it’s possible to live a full life without consuming vast quantities of kale. I know this, because I eat very little kale myself. I feel like I should eat kale, but I’ll come right out and admit that I don’t like it. So I buy it, and then it wilts in my fridge while I feel guilty for not eating more kale.
I contend that if we offer our kids healthy choices, we can leave the rest up to them. Whether they take extra helpings of salad, or appear to eat very little, unless they are facing actual health problems, it’s not our job to control their diets. So, I’m letting go of the veggie guilt. I’m coming out of the parental closet and admitting that my kids won’t eat salad. Or broccoli. Or chard. I suspect their palates and food consumption will both expand as they get older. For now, I’m not going to sweat it if they don’t clean their plates.
Are you with me? Or do you have magical vegetable-loving kids? Tell me all about it in the comments.