A real-life friend recently asked for my advice – she wanted to know how come Israeli kids are so much more open to eating veggies than American kids seem to be.
I actually don’t know if this is still the case in Israel of today, since the junk food disease is spreading around the world and has arrived in Israel too unfortunately. But certainly, back when I was a kid, I ate whatever was served to me, which was identical to what the grownups were eating, and that included plenty of veggies.
So it got me thinking, that by assuming our kids would hate vegetables, we are actually conditioning them to do so. Is it possible to raise kids without making a fuss about healthy foods, serving them the food we eat ourselves, avoiding “kid friendly” stuff, and raising vegetable lovers?
It’s an interesting thought.
I’m afraid it’s too late for that with my own kids. I am raising them here, and I am very guilty of falling into the trap of preparing “kid friendly” food for them and ordering off the kids’ menu at restaurants. The older is now 12 and is slowly emerging from this ban on vegetables. The ten years old still prefers bread and sweets, although I’m happy to see her becoming more and more open to eating what we eat.
Obviously, I can’t deny that research clearly shows babies are born with a strong preference for sweet flavors. And our human survival instincts, painfully unnecessary in the well-fed Western world, do dictate that we prefer fatty, high-calorie food. But vegetables can be delicious when fresh and when prepared and dressed simply. Steamed fresh veggies, dressed with just a little olive oil or butter and some salt; a freshly chopped salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice… after all, babies who start eating solids love their pureed veggies – it’s only around the age of 2 that kids start showing a strong preference for junk and start refusing healthier fare.
But what if we didn’t supply them with that junk? what if their only options were whole grains, lots of fruit and veggies, dairy and small portions of lean meat? What if they didn’t get used to hot dogs, burgers, fries and candy? A palate not used to salty, fatty foods can appreciate the subtler flavors and textures of wholesome, natural food. What if we never ordered off a kids’ menu?
Obviously this is not going to happen, at least not in this household, and one could even argue that it’s not a good idea to isolate kids from common foods that other kids eat.
But I still can’t help but wondering – do kids hate vegetables simply because we expect them to?