Regular TLT readers know about my one child who has been a veggie-phobe since age two, continually astounding me with his refusal to eat vegetables, no matter how deliciously prepared or how much the rest of the family is enjoying them.
There have been glimmers of hope, and I’ve shared those here. There was that day in 2010, now known as the Miracle in Houston, when the Veggie-Phobe nonchalantly picked up an ear of corn as though he’d been doing it all his life (not!), and there was also the Feast of the Blessed Malfatti, when the VP learned that some dark green Italian pasta dumplings were chock full of spinach, yet he continued to eat them with gusto.
The latest news is that my son has started to like basil pesto, a favorite of his sister’s, and homemade pesto is a great way to sneak in all sorts of dark greens along with the basil, with no one the wiser. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’m on record as being opposed to such tactics — “To Sneak or Not to Sneak: Hiding Healthful Ingredients in Kids Food” — but since dark leafy greens actually have a place in some pestos, I give myself a pass.)
But those are the bright spots in my son’s (mostly) veggie-free world.
Example: the other night I served steamed, buttered haricot vert at dinner, one of my favorite vegetables. The beans were tender and delicious and, despite the fact that I generally agree with kid-and-food expert Ellyn Satter that parental pressure usually backfires, I urged my son to just try them. He put a single green bean into his mouth and then began to gag violently, tears streaming down his face. And his reaction wasn’t for dramatic effect; he’d seemed open to trying the bean, or at least resigned about it, and then looked utterly distressed once it was in his mouth.
This is what I’m up against, people.
Interestingly, my son recently told me that his third-grade class did an experiment to isolate the “super-tasters” in the group. Using a kit like this one, the students tried to detect a particular bitter flavor, an ability which is the hallmark of the super-taster. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that my son was able to taste it, lending anecdotal credence to the theory that super-tasters often struggle with eating vegetables.
So what’s prompting this post today?
Just a reminder to myself that parent can do everything “right” — model good eating habits, talk about healthful eating, expose kids to gardening, involve kids in shopping and cooking — and still face a long, slow road when it comes to actual food acceptance. Which echos this comment, once left on TLT by reader Shira, blogger at Garden for Dessert:
. . . . My youngest is also terribly picky despite the fact he has been exposed to a steady stream of healthy food (I’m a vegetarian, and am pretty careful about what I eat). Tofu, legumes all sorts of veggies, he’s been exposed every day of his life, and still won’t try them (okay we are also making some slow progress on veggies).
Another argument I often hear “experts” say is if you grow your own veg, and have the kids help they’ll eat it. No dice on that one either. I’ve grown my own vegetables (March-Oct) for at least 10 years. My kids don’t know anything different than helping in the garden and my younger one continues to resist.
Thanks Bettina for sharing this and making me feel less like a bad mom!
So I guess that’s my point, in a nutshell. To all of you out there in my particular boat, let’s stop labeling our kids as “picky” or ourselves as “bad moms.” Instead, let’s take a deep, collective breath, slow down our timelines, tamp down our expectations, and agree to compare notes when our kids are in college.
I like to think that by then my son will be able to eat a buttered green bean with pleasure.
But who really knows?
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