My middle child is a fussy eater. Don’t ask me why, but he doesn’t like vegetables. But as a health obsessed vegan mum, I was determined to get him not only to eat vegies, but to love them.
Baby-Led-Weaning vs spoon-fed.
You’ve heard of baby-led-weaning (BLW), right? When the baby is ready for solids, you give them a selection of finger foods to feed themselves, instead of choosing for them, pureeing and spoon feeding. (You don’t have to stop breastfeeding). Well my first child was fed the traditional way (spoons and mush), but I did baby-led-weaning with my second. They both ate really well as babies, refusing nothing. Number 1 continued to eat everything in the vegetable kingdom. So imagine my surprise when number 2, my Sumo-baby, put down his broccoli tree, and never picked it up again. I’d given him free choice of whatever he could shove in his mouth, and he’d rejected vegetables.
It’s been a battle of wills ever since. I’d put vegies on his plate, he’d eat around them. I’d put salad in a bowl on the table, he’d pop a few pieces on his plate, but they were strictly garnish. I’d encourage him to taste some each time, but my reward was his mask of disgust and it’s accompanying shudder. “Good boy for trying” I’d say, relentlessly positive.
In the meantime, I’d make dishes with as much “built-in vegies” as I could get away with. Wholemeal pasta with vegan-bolognaise made a regular appearance. Carrot cake too. On a bad week I’d pull out the baked beans, because they count as vegetables, I’d tell myself. But disguising veg and counting legumes wasn’t a solution. I needed strategies to change his attitude.
The mighty power of bribery.
I know what you’re thinking. Eat your vegies or you don’t get dessert, right? Well that never worked. He steadfastly refused the vegies anyway. So here’s what I did, and it worked. At morning tea time: “Who wants crackers and dip?” ME! “Here’s your dip, and a bunch of carrot sticks – when you’ve eaten the carrots you get the crackers”. Starting with just a few, the carrots got eaten. After a while there was no complaint about the carrots. Sometimes there didn’t need to be crackers to follow. Now he’ll happily eat carrots by themselves. Without dip. I may have lost the battle 2000 times, but eventually, I won the war.
The challenge of competition.
We also engage in vegetable challenges: like bean-eating races. First person to devour their bean is the winner. Another favourite: who can do the best impression of a monster eating a tree? Who can make their muscles bulge by eating vegetables, like Popeye (“who’s Popeye?”).
And what of my strategy of perseverance? Serving vegies in a variety of ways, although they are always met with disdain? I choose to believe that it’s working. He’s only 4, and he now likes carrots. I take great enthusiasm from the Great Carrot Coup of 2012. If I can get him eating other plants, albeit under sufferance, sooner or later he’s going to realise that they’re pretty good. I’ve got many more years to enamour him with the rest of the vegetable universe.
I also figure, that maybe some vegetables get in through osmosis, just by being on the same plate. We’re also working on another picture book, where eating vegies gives you super powers. These psychological strategies will pay off one day: I’ve heard him say that Honk (Incredible Hulk) is strong because he eats all his vegetables.
So now I’ve got baby number 3, and she’s well and truly eating solids. I’m not game to do BLW exclusively, just in case it had a role in the vegetable war. She gets a happy mix of finger foods and spoonfuls of mush. So far, she likes all types of food. But even if she does declare war on veggies, like her brother did, she doesn’t stand a chance against my relentless optimism.