FSB Author Article
Why Toddlers Don't Eat Vegetables
By Dina R. Rose
No one does it deliberately, "Hey, we've got to stop this
veggie-eating thing. It's time to make sure Lucy loathes lima
But most parents don't actively help their children cultivate a
taste for vegetables. In fact, they teach their kids to prefer
kinds of flavors instead.
Here's some counterintuitive advice: Don't worry so much about
vegetables. Pay attention to all the other foods you regularly
your kids because therein lies the answer to veggie eating.
Instead of trying to get nutrients into your children, think
about shaping their taste buds.
A recent study shows that when children favor foods that are
in sugar, fat, and salt they typically don't like natural flavored
foods. Foods like vegetables.
Sadly, most "Child-Friendly" foods are high in sugar, salt and
This is true of sweetened yogurt, apple juice, Goldfish crackers,
pizza, cheese and the list goes on.
From a nutrition perspective, these foods barely pass the
From a habits perspective, they're a disaster. If you give your
children a lot of sweet, salty, and high fat foods throughout the
then these are the flavors their taste buds will come to expect.
When it comes to feeding kids, most parents think of
as Nutrient-Providers and Detectives.
And this is how most parents get into trouble.
and Detectives look for foods that meet two criteria: they deliver
nutritional goods (at least minimally) and their kids will like
This approach ends up restricting rather than expanding, your
palates because it encourages you to feed your children foods that
the same taste and texture.
You need to think of yourself as a taste-bud shaper instead.
Taste-bud shapers recognize that every bite of food
their children's taste preferences.
It's just not the number of times your kids eat peas that
determines whether or not they like peas.
What matters is the range of flavors your kids are exposed
throughout the day, and how those flavors compare to peas.
If you don't consciously shape your kids' taste buds to like
vegetables you'll end up teaching them to dislike vegetables
Don't believe me? Chart all the foods your kids eat for a couple
days, noting whether they are sweet, salty or full of fat. Go
Then, start training your kids' taste buds in the right
- Gradually wean your kids away from sugar, salt and fat.
- Temporarily add sugar, salt or fat to veggies so they taste more like the other stuff.
- Shift your children's daily diet towards more fresh, natural foods.
- Use "Child-Friendly" Foods as occasional treats.
Source: Cornwell, T. B. and A. R. McAlister. 2011.
"Alternative Thinking About Starting Points in Obesity.
Child Taste Preferences." Appetite 56: 428-39.
-- Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits
© 2011 Dina R. Rose author of the popular blog It's Not About Nutrition
Dina R. Rose is the author of the popular blog It's Not About Nutrition. She has a PhD in sociology from Duke University and more than fifteen years' experience in teaching and research. After her mother's premature death from obesity-related illnesses at the age of 65, Dina knew she wanted to give her daughter a better -- and happier -- food-life. Dina made helping parents solve their kids' eating problems her life work. Most parents know what their children should eat, but have trouble putting this knowledge into practice. Dina offers parents the relief they need: practical, research-based strategies so they can stop struggling and start succeeding.
For more information please visit It'sNotAboutNutrition.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter