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Teaching children to eat vegetables

Children's diet is crucial for their growth. Although they want to eat only what they like, it is important to vary the meals... and this is not always easy. To help you, the pediatric nutritionist Pascal Nourtier answered our questions. 



une nounou fait manger un enfant


"Oh no, not vegetables!" is surely what children say the most after "When do we eat?". During your childcares, you're going to have to get the kids to eat: whether their food is chosen by the parents or by you, it's important to include vegetables in the menu. 


We know that this mission may seem difficult but in the end you just have to know how to do it! Several methods are used: involve them in the preparation, associate vegetables with meals they like, make pies, quiches... 


The paediatric nutrionist's advices


To make it easier for you, Pascal Nourtier gives you his tips and advice so that you know everything about your children's diet. 


What's the point of making children eat vegetables? 


"It provides them fibers which are essential for the proper functioning of the intestines.  But above all it prevents a number of pathologies that they will encounter in their lives. Whether it is overweight, obesity, diabetes but also all cardiovascular pathologies."


What are your tips for getting kids to eat vegetables? 


"Above all, you have to mix vegetables. As soon as they are young you have to teach children what a real meal is. So combine vegetables with starchy foods like rice or pasta, but also with meat and fish. There is also a detail that should not be forgotten: include vegetables all the time."


But then how do you ensure that the child is not disgusted with vegetables quickly? 


"You have to ask the child to taste the product. If he/she has tasted it and does not like it, do not force him/her to continue. The last thing you want is for eating vegetables to become an element of conflict. In order for the child to develop a taste for them, you need to identify the vegetables he/she likes." 


Are there any vegetables that children are more likely to like? 


"Sweeter vegetables like carrots are way more appreciated. Then it depends on preferences: some kids will like broccoli and some will never eat it in their lives. Then it's going to depend on the preparation and you shouldn't hesitate to make soups or purees because it's a masked way to get them to eat vegetables." 


Are there any mistakes to avoid?


"Obviously. The first is to try to make the child a 'gastronome'. When children are born, their digestive tract is a large virgin tube. As they eat, the tube develops itself to create the intestinal flora. But before 2 or 3 years old, a baby must eat local vegetables, which are easy to digest. If at 9 months old you make him eat kiwi or mango, it's like passing sandpaper over his mucous membranes". 


Can this create other problems for the child? 


"Well, yes. Wanting at all costs to develop the tastes of his child with products that are not made for him, it creates a lot of allergies. And not necessarily only to the food in question but also to gluten or lactose. You have to be very careful with the vegetables you give to your children.


So how do you get the child to eat things that are made for them? 


"If you can cook, you can make spinach, beans or even brocolis. Just add a dab of butter or some olive oil and it enhances the taste. We prepare our starches with sauces and fats so why don't we cook vegetables."


And for people who can't cook?


"We can refer to the little pots that we find in the shops because behind these recipes there are real nutritionists, real gastronomes. So if you want the quality to be better, you can do it yourself with fresh products, but these commercial jars are an excellent way to make babies eat vegetables."  


In addition to Paul Nourtier's advice, here are 3 methods that could be useful during your childcare. 



Involve the kids in the food's preparation 



It is well known that children tend to enjoy things more when they have taken part in the process. In this case, involving children in the preparation of their meal is a great way to get them to eat it afterwards. Preparing vegetables with them gives you the occasion to explain which vegetable you have chosen, to show them what it looks like, what it smells like…


Give children simple, non-hazardous tasks: wash vegetables in cold water, throw peelings in the trash, compost if possible, pour the pieces into a bowl... in addition to making the child more self-sufficient, this method will push the child to eat what they spent time on. 



Pairing vegetables with a meal they enjoy



If it were up to them, children would only eat fries, pasta and nuggets. If you're going to prepare them something they like, you might as well add vegetables to it. For them, the problem with vegetables is the taste. But if the taste is masked by a food they like, the problem is solved. The goal is to gradually increase the portions so that the child gets used to them. 



Change the appearance of vegetables



Although children often dislike the taste of vegetables, it is also because of their shape and appearance. However, there are many ways to cook vegetables without turning them into face soup. 



Making pies and quiches



This format is very popular with children because it looks like a dessert. For example, while leeks may seem mushy in a leek fondue, a pie is the best way to make this vegetable go down smoothly. You can add meat or béchamel sauce to make it more gourmet. 


But pies and quiches are especially effective because you can mix several foods in the same dish. A classic bacon quiche can then accommodate spinach or broccoli because they are not too strong in taste and blend well with the preparation. The same goes for a tuna pie, which is often prepared with tomatoes or peppers. 



Surprise vegetables



You don't have to tell your children every time they eat vegetables! Why not combine them with desserts?  If this idea sounds crazy, it works extremely well. Here are several recipes ideas that might help you out:

  •  Chocolate Zucchini Cake
  •  Carrot cake
  •  Chocolate and beet cake



Careful presentation of dishes



"When it's beautiful, it's good". This is not necessarily true, but it works for children! You don't have to be a famous chef, you just have to use a little imagination. Draw a face with the food on the plate, put some color on the plate... 



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