Even though my family eats (mostly) a healthy diet, I’ve been encouraging my teenagers to break their monotonous meal preferences and try new dishes with exciting flavors. As they move through high school and college there are so many diverse and cultural eating experiences that will be missed (along with a wider array of nutrients) if they are dead set on having turkey meatballs, plain brown rice and an undressed salad for dinner (an all-too-common menu). That’s why I was excited to hear how Birds Eye Veggies is on a mission to redefine the way we all eat our vegetables with their Birds Eye® Flavor Full line of bold and exciting veggies that can be enjoyed as a side dish or the main course! Keep reading down to the end of the post for the Gift Card Giveaway.
This got me to thinking. Can picky eating-children change, or do they just grow up into adults who are ultra finicky about their food? There are valid reasons why a young child may avoid certain foods at all costs — did someone say “temper tantrum”?! Factors that contribute to a picky eater include all the legitimate sensory things you’d connect with food aversions like texture, temperature, taste and flavor. Picky eating is also encouraged by parental response as well as peer pressure when kids get a little older. Allergies, too, can play a welcomed defensive role in picky eating, a way your body tells you to say away from a certain harmful food – but I won’t get into that here.
I believe that with the right opportunities and encouragement, most kids can join the adult world of eating as they move into their ‘tween, teens and early twenties. One reason is that as we age, taste buds dwindle away from an average of 10,000 working taste buds in small kids to only 5,000 in adults – simply put, things start tasting less intense and we naturally seek out more flavor. To support this, a 2005 study published in the Pediatrics journal reports that most children do not like bitter tastes (often found in vegetables), while adults do not find offense.
Always funny or philosophical, this kiddo says “Potatoes are the ‘gateway’ vegetable”
Another interesting study conducted in 2012 at the University of Copenhagen reported that when children move into their teens, they have a decreased interest in sugary tastes and a higher sophistication to distinguish between tastes – however, they are often more resistant to trying new foods than toddlers! This is why, we as parents, need to set a good example by eating a balanced diet filled with a variety of colorful, nutrient-dense whole foods.
Here are some tips to encourage the teenagers in your family to become veggie lovers and also try out other exciting new flavors. Of course, if your teen is not eating because of control issues, an eating disorder, real or perceived allergies or other concerning reasons, please see a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Get teens cooking: Not only does teaching your older children how to prepare meals create self-sufficiency; it also creates a more adventurous attitude about eating as they master various skills.
- Host international night: Once a month, prepare a meal that features cuisine from a different culture – for example, Indian, Korean, Thai, or Italian (no pizza!). To keep everyone happy, every family member gets to select one recipe to be included on the menu, but has to eat at least three bites of every other dish. Have them invite a friend over who may just announce “ooh, I love curry” – and suddenly your son or daughter will too!
- Focus on vegetable variety: As teens lose their taste for sugar (allegedly it’s a real thing!), support their savory side with more and more vegetables. Look past buttered green beans and toward more exotic or bold tastes, like Buffalo Cauliflower! Filling up your plate with a rainbow of vegetables is the easiest and tastiest way to optimize health, in my opinion.
- Educate and relate: Share online resources for healthy and clean eating with your children. Older kids are smart enough to understand that eating vegetables and a variety of foods is best, but are sneaky when it comes to actually eating what you serve – just think of all the Brussels sprouts “dropped” on the floor or yogurt and berry parfaits swapped for pink cupcakes at lunch. I always share the story of how I traded my celery, peanut butter and raisin “ants on a log” for Ding Dongs at lunch and quickly lost my get-up-and-go for gymnastics practice in the afternoon.
- Role model without pushing: No one likes a pea pusher, and even worse so if it’s your own mother or father. With most teens, realize that the more you “strongly suggest” you eat your vegetables or try new dishes, the more likely they are to rebel by absolutely doing the opposite. They are teens, they will come around – just keep the message honest yet low-key, the most important thing you can do is be a role model for clean eating.
As I hinted, I’ve been using Birds Eye Vegetables in my covert parental plan to encourage my teens to embrace new foods. The line of Birds Eye® Flavor Full vegetables transforms plain veggies with bold and on-trend flavors – it makes eating healthy side dishes so much fun. Plus, I love the convenience of the Steamfresh packaging – you just heat up in the microwave right in the bag. When my kids are making dinner, having one less dish to clean up is a major selling point! The unexpected but utterly delicious flavors include Buffalo Cauliflower, Ranch Broccoli, Sour Cream & Onion Potatoes, Teriyaki Broccoli, Barbecue Sweet Corn, Sweet Chili Carrots, Wasabi Peas and Fiesta Lime Corn. Check here for a product locator.
Head over and get a $1.00 off coupon that is good for 30 days once downloaded (but must be used by 12/31/2015).
Enter to win my giveaway for a $25 Visa Gift Card — you can spend it on vegetables for your teens, or whatever you please. Although I really hope you get some cauliflower and beets!
Follow the Rafflecopter app directions to enter now through Dec 9th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway