As our twin daughters turn four years, we try and figure out how we are faring as parents. One of the things that stand out as an achievement for us is that both the girls eat all the vegetables.
I have tried to figure out how and why this has happened? To be honest, the points mentioned below are what we feel as parents that have contributed to our daughters eating all the vegetables. Though, it is very much possible that we can be wrong and that our daughters would have anyways had vegetables or they are having it for some other reasons.
We encourage our daughters to taste – and this means practically everything that is found in the kitchen. They taste all vegetables – raw (barring uncooked potato, I suppose they have put everything in their mouth), all spices (barring chilli powder of course), uncooked rice, all pulses, aata, kneaded dough. You name it and they would have tasted it. I do not remember when this started, but it was fairly long back for sure, and I suppose this contributed to their developing adventurous taste-buds. Yes, they have fairly good digestion too to digest whatever they taste and no issues on that front either.
Earlier, we used to buy vegetables from the supermarket. We realized that kids wanted to pick their own vegetables but were not able to reach the crates. So, we started going to the local market where vegetables are sold on either road-side or on push-carts. Both the places our daughters are able to reach, pick and put vegetables in their own cloth bags. Once they pick and buy, I suppose it leads to some kind of ownership for them to eat their vegetables.
Both the girls love helping their mother in the kitchen. Cutting vegetables is a family task with both kids busy cutting vegetables with their scissors and steamed vegetables with their toy knives. Similar to buying, I suppose this also leads to owning up their vegetables – they cut and put spices in curry preparation.
Once ready, we always announce that today’s vegetable curry has been made courtesy the efforts put in by the two young girls, their beaming smiles follows and their eating the vegetables.
Never an announcement for new trials
The girls’ contribution to buying and preparing vegetables happened along the way. When they started eating their vegetables, I remember that we never announced what was made for lunch/dinner. We just sat for food and started feeding them. I suppose the statements like “you have what you like”, “it is ok if you do not like” would have made them defensive and create a doubt in their minds about what is being fed to them. Rather, it was always made to look like business as usual and that it is expected of them to eat whatever is served.
Surprisingly, they ate and eat even now.
No question about liking vegetables but statements
We have never asked them if they liked what they ate. Rather, we make statements that today’s vegetable curry was excellent, yum, tasty and they join the chorus.
No favourite vegetables
We have not taught them the word “favourite“. They, of course, know about its existence as they have been asked a number of times by others about their favourite colours/vegetables. The answer prompted by us is that they like all the colours and also, all the vegetables.
It might be said that we are not helping our children to decide or making their choices all-across. I am not so sure, but this seems to have helped to treat and eat all the vegetables equally and also to dress up in all-coloured clothes.
No small servings
We have ensured that there are no small servings. Whatever is made, gets served in the same size as earlier time with a statement that we need to eat and finish what is served in the plate.
There are a lot of things that the girls do not give an ear to, but somehow they seem to follow this piece of instruction.
I suppose the above points have helped in developing an attitude to try out everything. They have never been rewarded for eating their vegetables or any conditions attached along with.
There are also below points that seem to have helped in developing their taste-buds to vegetables.
No salt or sugary foods
The girls are yet to taste soft drinks or canned juices. Same goes for French Fries / Lays / Kurkure and the like. I suppose the lack of attack on their senses from this fast food stuff has helped them to appreciate the taste of vegetables.
Initiation to solid foods
One of the girls migrated to Cerelac prior to starting her actual solid food. Her sister went directly from milk to solid foods and she was the one who ate all the vegetables. The girl who was having Cerelac did not have a liking for vegetables till she turned two. I suppose it was seeing her sister having all the vegetables helped to begin her liking for vegetables.
My wife suspects that Cerelac has some amount of sugary taste across all the flavours and this made her reluctant to take vegetables. We feel that sugar and salt can follow vegetables, but not the other way round.
No exotic vegetables or dishes
The girls are comfortable with all the kinds of gourds, leafies and the local vegetables sold in the vegetable market. Having stopped going to the supermarket has ensured that we do not have any broccoli or lettuce or coloured capsicum in the house.
The girls love their white sauce pasta as a sure-shot once a week dinner dish. Apart from this, their mother has stayed away from making dishes specifically to introduce the vegetables. She wants the taste of vegetables to stand out and not the seasonings or the salt or the sugar. I suppose this has helped immensely.
To repeat, we do not know for sure what has actually led to both the girls having all the vegetables. The above-mentioned reasons are what we have come up in hindsight – may be true or completely off the mark.
I hope if any of the above points can be of help to you. Do share your experiences and views.