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Why It’s Unfair to Label Kids as “Picky Eaters”

Dr. Nicole Garneau 02/25/2019

We all know vegetables are good for our kids and for us, but there is no denying that the taste can be off-putting. And believe it or not, kids get an unfair bad rep for being picky. When in fact, their bodies are doing exactly what evolution has intended. “Be wary!” it says, “those bitter things might kill you!” As funny as it sounds, it’s true. First, scientists believe that most, if not all, of poisonous plants have evolved bitterness as a protective measure. Second, kids just don’t experience the flavors of eating the same way as adults do. Not only are they are more inclined towards energy-dense foods (yes, think sugar and fat, and don’t forget how well processed food companies know this!). They are also extremely sensitive to bitterness. According to Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, FAND, “The bitterness usually means the vegetable is high in antioxidants and other great nutrients, so it is worth the effort to figure out how to get your kids to eat them. And parents, don't forget to model good behavior by eating your vegetables, too.”

Here are some recipes from Dr. Wdowik, and you can find more tips on her website, Welcome to Healthy Eating.

An idea for reducing the sharpness of broccoli and cauliflower is to cook them slightly; just watch out, because overcooking them will make them even more bitter.  Allow them to retain a crunch, and serve warm or chilled with a dip. Try these easy suggestions for all your preschooler's vegetables!

 

EASY SIDE DIPS

  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil mixed with lemon, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Peanut butter mixed with a little milk to make it thinner
  • Plain Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon from a seasoning packet of ranch mix.

 

EASY RECIPES

1. Happy Hummus

Blend in food processor:
1 15-ounce can of chick peas (also called garbanzo beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt

 

2. Homemade Ranch Dip

½ cup nonfat yogurt
½ cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped parsley (1 tablespoon dried)
1/4 cup chopped chives (1 tablespoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients well.

 

3. Cucumber Yogurt Dip

1 cup plain or Greek yogurt
½ cup cream cheese
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon lemon zest or juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped dill ( teaspoon dried)

Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients well.

 

4. Avocado Dip

2 ripe avocadoes, peeled and mashed
3 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup onion, finely diced
1 small tomato, finely diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well.

 

5. Bean Dip

1 15-ounce can of beans, pureed (black, kidney, pinto, or even white beans work well)
2 tablespoons lowfat sour cream
1 tablespoon ranch seasoning mix or Mexican food spices such as cumin and chili

Mix all ingredients well.

 

6. Black Bean Salsa Recipe

1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained
1 15-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
Chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients well.

 

7. Celery Dip

1 8-ounce container of light cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons light sour cream or nonfat yogurt
20 green olives with pimentos, chopped

Mash well with fork.

 

8. Savory Ricotta Dip

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley (1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well.

 

9. Sweet Ricotta Dip

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup vanilla yogurt

Mix all ingredients well.

 

Other Great Sources:

www.eatright.org

www.healthy-kids-snacks.com

www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org

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