When my daughter turned 1, a routine toe prick revealed that her iron levels were low. Because our family doesn’t eat much iron-rich red meat, the pediatrician advised that we feed our daughter spinach. Every. Single. Day. This was bad. My daughter had just entered a picky eating phase and leafy greens were “yuck.”
Things were going poorly until I made popsicles. These frozen treats were chock full of blended spinach, peanut butter, yogurt, carrots, other miscellaneous healthy stuff, and blueberries, which conveniently turned the entire concoction purple. My daughter devoured the pops.
Yes! Parenting win!
Hmm, says Gillian Harris, among the world’s foremost experts on picky eating in children and a consultant and clinical psychologist at the University of Birmingham in the UK, when I describe my pops to her over the phone. “You want the child to look at the vegetable, taste the vegetable, get used to the vegetable and eat that vegetable when they’re 7 or 8,” she says.
In other words, getting your kid to eat veggies through subterfuge — whether via awesome pops or in those now ubiquitous pouches that let children squeeze a mix of fruits and kale/carrot/parsnip/other vegetable into their mouths through a makeshift straw — sets the bar too low. Your child must actually learn to like veggies, weird textures and all.
With research showing that low vegetable consumption early in life tracks to low consumption later, and with poor diet correlated with a host of diseases later in life, including weight problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer, getting kids to eat unadulterated veggies has far-reaching public health implications. Yet research suggests that a whopping 93 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 18 do not meet current recommendations for vegetable intake.