Teaching Kids to Enjoy Vegetables (Pedcast)

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Introduction

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the vegetarians of the world are winning the argument about what constitutes healthy eating. After a half century of poor nutrition creeping into the American child’s diet, I feel like the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward healthier eating. Meals are becoming more often, lower on the food chain with a lot more fruits and vegetables. If you are not already on this movement toward a more vegetable friendly diet, you need to listen to today’s edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics.  Today we are going to explore two new ways you can help your children move toward a balanced diet, a diet rich in vegetables.

Music introduction

I am sure most of you remember the food pyramid that the USDA and other food experts were recommending just a few years ago. In the 80’s and 90’s, the food pyramid guided us to feed our children a diet that heavily favored grains bread and pasta. Vegetables and fruits were only second tier in this paradigm. Vegetables were playing second fiddle to carbohydrates? Not in today’s new food reality.

 

 

 

 

Today, fruits and especially vegetables have ascended to dominate the role of king of the plate. In fact, as I said before, vegetarianism seems to be more and more accepted as healthy diet for children. Just look at what the USDA is recommending today as the ideal diet for American children today.  Experts are now recommending that fully half of a child’s diet should be fruits and vegetables with the vegetable percentage larger than the fruits portion.  That is very radical for America where vegetables are the ugly stepchildren of an American child’s diet. And we are not talking French fries here, but real vegetables.  Look at what the USDA wants your child’s plate to look like today; fully half the plate is covered with colorful fruits and vegetables.

 

Now that we understand all this, I have two new ideas that I want to introduce you to.  The first was something that the mother of a patient told me about recently. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I have the most well informed parents on the planet.  They really help keep me relevant and informed. Anyway, the program she told me about is called “Veggiecation”. Her son’s school participates in this, now national program, and she is a big fan.  Not only does the program have a great name, but also it uses group hands on fun and a little peer pressure to introduce children to vegetables at school, where they can taste, touch, and eat vegetables in a supportive environment. They even learn to cook at the same time. Watch this video to see how they do it. http://www.veggiecation.com/.  A child can’t help but have fun with the Veggiecation program.

The second new concept I came across recently, was an article in a pediatric journal that investigated the role of marketing in children’s acceptance of vegetables as food. The authors investigated what would happen to fruit and vegetable consumption at a school cafeteria if the vegetables were marketed like junk food is currently being marketed toward them. Results-The kids took three times more vegetables from the salad bar after the veggies were marketed to the children with a combination of TV promotions by vegetable cartoon characters and vinyl banners displaying vegetable cartoon characters.

Both of the veggiecation campaign and the vegetable marketing idea have one thing in common; using groupthink to introduce vegetables to children.  It is sad, but many children just aren’t getting experience with fresh vegetables at home so we need to come up with other ideas and ways to get the job done. What I have presented today is a good start. Even better would be parents gardening with their kids, taking them to the farmer’s market or grocery store regular to buy fresh vegetables, and teaching kids of all age how to cook and enjoy vegetables.

As always, thanks for joining me today for this edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics. I think you can tell that I love learning about new things in pediatrics and I enjoy sharing them with you.  If you want to learn more about what is new in the world of child health, subscribe to get all my new posts either on iTunes or at my blog, www.docsmo.com. While you are at it, I would love to hear your ideas and comments about today’s pedcast. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you won’t be quiet, about getting vegetables into your kids diet. Until next time.

Smo Notes:

  1. Veggiecation video demonstrating a class.

http://www.veggiecation.com/

  1. Article studying -“Marketing Vegetables in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/07/01/peds.2015-1720

 

3 Comments

  1. Lisa Gerard says:

    Dr. Smollen,

    I was delighted to read your article about Veggiecation! Beth Anderson and Jen Wentzel’s boys attend my school, Village Montessori and Preparatory School. Jaime Coxon is our Veggiecator and makes her rounds to 8 of our 10 classrooms once a month to teach kids about veggies and make delicious recipes that the children get to taste. They sometimes help her make the recipe and after they sample the veggies each child receives an ‘I tried it!’ sticker. We have an organic school garden and we use veggies and herbs from it for recipes. We also have a strict snack policy, which consists of ‘no artificial anything’ and <8g of sugar per serving.

    I am thrilled to see a pediatrician using his influence to get the message out about the importance of serving fruits and veggies to children. As a school owner, I've seen first-hand how a poor diet can affect behavior and learning to the point where we've recommended changes in diet to parents whose children display behavior problems.

    Thanks for what you do!

    Lisa Gerard
    Owner/Director
    VMPS

  2. Jaime Coxon RD LDN CDE says:

    Hi Dr. Smolen!
    I love this! I am the “Veggiecator” at your patient’s school. It has been such an incredible experience to watch the children learn, observe & taste veggies like kale, spinach & cauliflower and each time I teach, the more eager they are to try what I am preparing. It is truly never too early to start teaching children to eat their veggies as it lays the nutritional foundation that will last throughout life :-). So, we as health professionals definitely need to step up to the plate and start educating!

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