“Eew, yuck, disgusting!”. Sounds familiar? If your child reacts to a colourful plate of vegetables in this way, rejoice! IKEA has a new dish on its menu – Veggie balls – which it describes as “Not as yucky as veggies, and just as good for you.” Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, nutritionist at Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association (SNDA) offers tips and tricks to get your little ones to love their veggies.
1. Disguising vegetables in food items. Food ideas include grated vegetables in omelettes, frittata, quiche, savoury pancakes, mashed vegetables in soups, sauces and vegetables as a part of meat stews.
2. Positive role modelling by parents and older siblings who enjoy their veggies
3. Involving children in food preparation will help them to appreciate vegetables. The preparation process – such as cooking, boiling, steaming and frying – gives children an opportunity to taste vegetables cooked using different methods. Parents can share the names of different veggies and how they are beneficial to our health while children can learn to have fun with their food.
4. Explain the importance of vegetables for a healthy body via interactive formats such as storytelling, videos etc
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Dr Kalpana says, “There are no hard and fast rules about which vegetables to introduce first, and it makes no difference to your baby in terms of ease of digestion. Some experts recommend starting with fruit first, because it's sweet, like breastmilk. However, it makes sense to introduce vegetables before fruits, so that your baby will be more likely to accept them.”
Mild-flavored varieties like sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and green beans are a great starting point. Spinach and broccoli which are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction can be tried as well.
Research has shown that if you want to encourage your children to eat vegetables, make sure you start early and often. In fact, most children were “learners” who increased their intake of vegetables over time so remember that it may take up to ten times for baby to accept new vegetables but how early should you start?
Dr Kalpana recommends introducing weaning foods (including vegetables) from age six months of age to meet the nutritional needs of the growing infant, particularly iron. Nevertheless, the best cue to determine readiness should come from the baby.
Infants who exhibit poor growth or iron deficiency anaemia may be weaned earlier, as advised by their doctor or dietitian. However, the introduction of weaning foods (including vegetables) should not be earlier than four months of age as their digestive functions would not be matured enough to metabolise nutrients from food. On the other hand, introduction of vegetables should not be delayed beyond six months of age, as it can increase the risk of feeding difficulties later on and the baby may not be able to get adequate nutrition from milk alone.
So, is there any truth to junior’s claim that he is not eating vegetables because mummy isn’t? According to Dr Kalpana, yes. She notes “Taste is the most important determinant of how much a food is liked or disliked. Taste is very much in turn affected by genetic differences which control sensitivity to bitter-tasting compounds.”
, Yep, mum, it's time to eat up your veggies, too!
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