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How to get picky eaters to eat their vegetables

SHARON PITTAWAY-UNSPLASH

HOW to get kids to eat more vegetables is a problem that has bothered parents and guardians since mealtimes were invented. A nutritionist and dietitian provided some answers in a webinar from seasonings brand Ajinomoto.

In a webinar by Cookmunity by Ajinomoto Philippines titled “Sustansarap, Sustansaya: Be a Gulay Lover!,” registered nutritionist and dietitian Paul Bagabaldo from the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food of the University of the Philippines – Los Baños, gave a few pointers on strengthening the immune system, especially because of the ongoing pandemic. This includes eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E; and the minerals selenium, zinc, and iron.

“As much as possible, we’re recommending a variety of food,” he said in Filipino. A balanced diet should have a varied stream of nutrition sources, and to know, one has to use their eyes: “Dapat makulay sa inyong plato (your plate should be colorful).”

To get children to eat more vegetables, he suggests maintaining a routine schedule for feeding, and to remove distractions while eating (such as the television, or gadgets).

He also said to avoid using processed foods like cookies and sweets as rewards —  but also not to force children to eat things they don’t like. “This could cause negative experiences that they will bring until they grow up,” he said in Filipino.

One can introduce vegetables in small portions, or even grate, puree, or mash them to “conceal” the vegetable. However, he emphasizes that children should know what a real vegetable looks like eventually.

One can also serve vegetables with their favorite dips or sauces, or, better yet, involve children in the preparation of the meal.

One can also resort to attractive presentation (Ms. Bagabaldo suggests character bento boxes). He also suggests using “food bridges” — food that is similar in texture, color, or taste of the last vegetable they liked.

Peers also come into play.

“Ipakita rin natin na ikaw, ako, saka iyong buong pamilya ay nag-eenjoy sa pagkain ng gulay (let’s show that you, me, and the whole family enjoy eating vegetables,” he said. One can also invite friends and classmates who eat vegetables for meals. “May mga pagkakataon kasi na mas mataas o mas malaki iyong impluwensiya ng kanilang mga kaibigan (there are times when their friends enjoy greater influence over them),” he said.

But then, children aren’t the only picky eaters at home. Adults already have their own purchasing power and their own will, and do make choices about what they eat. For adults, Mr. Bagabaldo says, “Ang talagang ginagawang strategy namin, is for them to realize kung ano iyong importance ng vegetables sa kanila (The strategy that we really use is to make them realize how important vegetables are for them).” — JL Garcia

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