Eat Your Vegetables - That Means You, Parents!

Thursday, May 15, 2008 General News
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NEW YORK, May 15 MS -- "Eat your vegetables!" is a pleaoften heard around family dinner tables. Why is it that many young childrendon't seem to like vegetables? "It turns out that taste preferences are, infact, developed prenatally," says Jane Kostelc, early childhood specialist atParents as Teachers National Center. Research conducted by Leann Birch, Ph.D.,at Pennsylvania State University shows that unborn babies may detect tastedifferences as early as the 13th week of pregnancy.

Prenatal Influences

Pregnant women who eat a wide variety of foods expose their children todifferent tastes, as the flavor of amniotic fluid changes.

Breast milk is another way nursing babies are exposed to a variety ofdifferent tastes. Formula flavor is consistent each bottle, but the taste ofbreast milk changes based on what the nursing mom eats. Eating a wide varietyof vegetables gives a nursing baby a sample of what's to come once he getsthose teeth.

Toddler Experimentation

According to Kostelc, early exposure is an important factor in encouragingchildren to develop a taste for vegetables. Some nutritionists recommendexposing your child to as many as 200 different foods by the age of 2 years."The more opportunity your toddler has to experiment with different tastes,the more willing she will be to accept variety," says Kostelc.

Texture Counts, Too

Present your child with a variety of texture in foods. Cooked green beansare crunchy and mashed sweet potatoes are smooth. Part of the reason childrenreject vegetables, says Kostelc, is that they don't like the feel of them intheir mouths.

A child may have to taste a new food 15 to 25 times before he is ready toeat a few bites. Don't worry about counting and don't be concerned withrejection; just keep putting those lima beans on the plate and cheerfullyencouraging your child to take a taste.

Smelling and touching foods also count as exposures. Let your curioustoddler touch and smoosh his zucchini. Some just may wind up in his mouth!

It Starts With YOU!

You are the most important model for your child's good eating habits. Fillyour plate with a variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables. "Let yourchild see that you enjoy -- or are willing to taste -- vegetables and othernutritious foods," advises Kostelc. "Young children often want a taste of whatyou are eating. Encourage them to taste the vegetables on your plate. Goodnutrition is something you want to share."

SIDEBAR: Minding your peas and carrots: tips for your young child'slifelong veggie-loving

The early childhood experts at Parents as Teachers National Center offerthe following tips for getting your young child eating healthy right from thestart:-- Start early to offer steamed vegetables. -- Introduce your child to at least 200 different foods before age 2. -- Expect to offer a vegetable 15-25 times before your child tastes it. -- Let kids smell, touch, and taste veggies. -- Eat vegetables with your child.

SOURCE Parents as Teachers

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