We love veggies for their taste and because they are rich in vitamins and other valuable nutrients. However, most children see this differently. Not many kids are much into veggies, and most outright refuse to eat them. However, if you are a parent, don’t despair! There are scientific reasons why your child does not like vegetables. Find out why children are wary of veggies, and learn what you can do to make your kids enjoy them more.
Many thousands of years ago, when we were still living in caves, we were spending most of our time starving, hunting, and searching for food. Catching a tasty woolly mammoth or bison that could feed us for some time was the rare exception. However, what was in abundance back then were roots, fruits, and all sorts of veggies. We developed an instinct for craving more rare foods, such as protein-rich meats or the occasional treat of honey, because they helped us survive better in times of famine. Said differently, we learned to shun vegetables in prehistoric times; it is a natural human instinct.
Children need much more energy than adults do. This is why they are instinctively drawn to sweets and love “bad” foods like fast food and other types of high-calorie, high-energy fare. Vegetables do not provide much energy in the form of calories at all. Did you know that some veggies contain so few calories and so much fibre that we need as much energy to digest them as they provide?
Back in prehistoric times, a child could not have survived on vegetables alone, since they wouldn’t provide enough calories for the child to grow. Now you probably understand why your child would likely choose a burger or some other type of fatty or sweet food over a healthy dish of vegetables. What’s more, children are growing fast and require more and more energy, which means they normally have a better tolerance for fats and sweets than adults.
If you want your children to like veggies, you can add natural oils and fats when you prepare them. Look into healthier fats such as unsalted butter, cheese, coconut oil, or olive oil to make your vegetable dishes. You don’t need to go all-out with fats for preparing kid-friendly veggies. The best is a medium-fat, but not low-fat diet. If you’re worried about the calories for your child, you can always balance this out with lower-calorie foods elsewhere.
Children often don’t like the taste of vegetables, and here too, there is a scientific reason behind this behaviour. Many veggies, especially greens like spinach, have a slightly bitter taste.
For our prehistoric ancestors who scavenged for food, bitter normally meant poisonous. Obviously, the bitterness in veggies, which comes from calcium and other beneficial, but bitter-tasting compounds is now an acquired taste for most adults. In addition to that, the taste buds of children are more sensitive than that of adults, which means they can taste the bitterness more than we do. Children still have to learn to like the taste, and you shouldn’t blame them for this natural instinct.
The best thing you can do to make your children like the taste of veggies is to start them out with small portions, then slowly get them used to it. In a sense, your child’s brain is still in the “Stone Age”. They first need to learn that the bitterness of veggies doesn’t mean any harm.
The texture of some vegetables doesn’t make them easy to eat compared to other foods. Vegetables can be fibrous, stringy, chewy, and hard to break apart. Other vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers have a mushy texture. And this is where we come to scientific reason #3 why children don’t like vegetables. For early humans, difficult-to-eat meant a risk of choking, and mushy meant the texture of rotten food. Your kid has a natural instinct to avoid foods with these textures, just as humans did millennia ago.
When you slowly start out your children with veggies, they will learn to chew and swallow the fibrous ones, and they will also discover that mushy can be tasty after all! Just have patience and give them some time to learn. They may even discover a penchant for a certain type of veggie!