What is it about broccoli? From a parent’s perspective, it’s virtually the holy grail of foods. Even if broccoli was the only thing that a child ate, virtually all of their nutritional requirements would be met.
But you’ve probably served up broccoli at least 20 times in different guises and had the same response from your child. It’s a ‘no’ from them!
You listened to the professionals whose advice was that repetitive exposure is the secret to success. No such luck. Then you tried culinary artistry. Those fluffy florets went into ice cubes, you steamed them, crumbed them, made pancakes and fritters, baked muffins, blended them into sauces and paired them with your child’s favourite foods. You even pushed gastronomic boundaries by incorporating it into a chocolate mousse.
No matter what outlandish ways you dress it up, broccoli remains unavoidably green and seems perpetually doomed. But you’re a good parent, right? This isn’t your fault and you trust the advice of the feeding professionals. That’s why you soldier on with your latest incarnation – a forced smile on your face, hoping for a miracle but knowing it’ll fail.
So when you presented these gourmet greens to your child for what must have been the 20th time, did they react with hysterical screaming? Perhaps you were told your efforts looked disgusting. You were also probably told you were a terrible mum for offering such an offensive meal. And no doubt you trudged back to the kitchen dodging flying forks, trying to ignore the insults.
It’s time to take control. Throwing spaghetti at the wall 20 times hoping it will stick isn’t a solution.
Yes, there are some babies who eat everything. Including greens. But if you’re a lucky parent whose pureed presentations always get the tick of approval, don’t smile smugly for too long. Your little ones are probably lying awake at night plotting revenge!
In all seriousness, these three tips will change your life. They don’t just apply to broccoli but can be used as a guide for any dietary goals and they’ll turn mealtime mayhem into healthy happiness.
Tip 1 – Serving broccoli to a child who refuses to eat any green foods is like trying to harvest when no seeds have been planted. Rather start small and build towards a varied list of green foods. Offer your child a single pea, a pumpkin seed (pepita), bean or snowpea.
Tip 2 – Some children struggle to even touch unfamiliar foods. If yours has tactile difficulties with food, I’ve got a great visual chart which will get them to bridge the gap between looking at food – declining to touch – interacting – tasting – and finally eating. Access it at https://www.littlefusspot.com/.
Tip 3 – A child of school-going age is ready to take responsibility for their own health. In the supermarket, get your child to pick three foods to ‘learn’ about. Notice I didn’t refer to ‘tasting’ or ‘eating’. If children are encouraged to experiment and interact with different foods – slicing, dicing, peeling, juicing, cooking and tasting them using different cooking methods – the element of anxiety will be alleviated.
It’s simple. Kids find it so difficult being around unfamiliar things because anxiety perpetuates anxiety. The longer they stay away from unfamiliar things, the greater the chance that they’ll be fearful in the future.
So mumma, even if dinnertime has been rough and you’re scrubbing green gunk off the walls, take three deep breaths and try to remain calm. Pick your battle tomorrow with something that you know your child loves to eat, perhaps with a little stretch sideways to challenge them.
I assure you from years of experience as a clinical nutritionist, your little one will wake just as early on an empty stomach as on a bellyful of junk. Wait a minute….. I can hear little footsteps from my child’s bedroom. “Muuuuuuuuuuuuum, I’m hungry! Please can I have a biscuit?”
Beth Bonfiglio is a clinical nutritionist and child feeding specialist and on a mission to equip and empower parents to build a healthy future for their children.
Her online 6-week therapy programs offer clinically proven, research-based and easy-to-follow strategies to empower you to make positive changes for your family and improve their long-term health and longevity. Whether you have a picky eater or a problem feeder, this multidirectional approach promises that each child will thrive.