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A Healthier You

How to Raise Vegetable Eaters


(New York Times) – Cereal bars with spinach mixed in or veggie-infused tater tots are great at fooling children into eating greens or broccoli or carrots. But experts say that aside from the fact that these products often use only traces of vegetables, this strategy assumes the children can’t like kale or broccoli itself, and relying on such products makes it far more likely that they won’t.

“If kids are not given the opportunity to actually experience the vegetable — how it looks, its taste, its texture — then they aren’t getting a chance to ‘train their taste buds,’” said Dr. Natalie Muth, a pediatrician in Carlsbad, Calif., and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The goal in raising healthy eaters is to help them learn to like and prefer healthy foods.”

To do that requires first knowing what the healthy foods look and taste like.

“A lot of parents feed their kids what food companies are telling them is kid food, and not realizing those food choices may be impacting their kids’ health,” said Dr. Nimali Fernando, a pediatrician in Virginia and founder of the nonprofit Doctor Yum Project. In addition to childhood obesity, effects may include gastrointestinal issues, behavioral challenges and other health problems she associates with poor eating habits. “There’s all these ripple effects from the average American kid-friendly diet that are very challenging as a pediatrician to deal with, because it’s so pervasive.”

Among commercially available brands, she favors one called Fresh Bellies, which sells purées of fruits and “unmasked veggies.” The fruit and vegetable lines are distinct from one another, rather than blended as fruit-vegetable combinations, which is what most pouch and puréed food brands offer.

By mixing the two, the company’s founder and chief executive Saskia Sorrosa said, “kids are never learning to eat vegetables. They’re learning to eat fruit sugars.”

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