Stroll any cookbook aisle in your local bookstore for proof. Dozens of catchy titles jump out -- Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, Eat Like a Dinosaur, Child Diet Dilemma. There’s even Healthy Eating for Dummies.
So when a new book, titled Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make, came my way, I was curious -- particularly about those last three words.
Technically not a cookbook (although recipes are included at the end of each section), this book serves more as a how-to guide. The author, a pediatrician, registered dietician and mom, gives parents advice on building life-long healthy eaters without the traditional tricks, bribes and mealtime battles.
So that raised my first question. When on a quest to develop produce-loving kids, why is it a mistake to tell our children to eat their vegetables? As parents, isn’t that naturally the first sentence out of our mouths at the dinner table?
Yes, but it shouldn’t be, author Natalie Digate Muth says.
She claims the problem with this strategy is that it backfires. Kids, like the rest of us, have minds of their own and instinctively resist persuasion. The more we pressure them to eat certain foods, the less likely they’ll be to develop a taste for them and continue eating them as adults, Muth reasons.
Research has shown that ultimately it comes down this: kids eat what tastes good. That’s pretty obvious. Of course this pushes us to intervene, blurting out that familiar axiom: “Eat your vegetables!” That’s never been more important nowadays given the obesity epidemic in our nation and recent studies showing only one in four kids and adolescents consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
So, if you really want your kids to eat vegetables and other healthy foods because they like them, then you’ll have to employ different strategies, which Muth outlines in detail throughout the book. She starts by detailing the mistakes parents make.
Mistakes? Oh, boy, I thought, here we go.
She breaks the book into four major umbrella mistakes: Inherited, Underrated, Everyday and Overlooked. She also describes 12 common mistakes parents make when feeding their kids, such as using food as a reward, requiring a clean plate, catering to picky eaters, not speaking up during doctor’s visits and failing to walk the talk. She gives evidence-based advice on how to handle each situation. Her goal: redefining how to raise healthy eaters.