A Problem Shared: 4 Year Old Won’t Eat Vegetables

A Problem Shared Health Parenting & Family Advice | by | 17th Feb 2017

Eating - A Problem Shared: 4 Year Old Won't Eat Vegetables

Jack is worried that his young daughter isn’t getting enough nutrition as she refuses to eat vegetables. Do you have any advice for this week’s A Problem Shared…?

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Hi FamilyPoint,

My four year old is refusing point blank to eat any vegetables. When she was little she would try all kinds of things and used to love eating carrot sticks, broccoli and so on but I struggle to even get her to eat even peas these days. What child doesn’t like peas!!

I’m worried because everyone lectures you that eating 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day is important for their health. She’s developed a really sweet tooth and so she’s better with fruit, but I heard that some fruit can be just as bad for your teeth as chocolate sometimes, so I would like her to eat more vegetables.

I’m really worried that she’s not getting all the nutrition she needs. I’ve tried covering everything in ketchup to see if I can fool her into eating them, but it’s not really working. I need some tips please, what can I do?

Jack, Cardiff

Our FamilyPoint Advice to Jack

Hi, thanks for contacting FamilyPoint about your four year old refusing to eat vegetables. It’s good that you’re taking such an interest in the food that your child eats (or doesn’t eat), and that you are concerned about her getting all the nutrition that she needs.

I can see that you’ve raised her on a good mix of food, with carrots and broccoli etc., along with a mix of fruit. As you know you cannot force a child to eat. At the age of 4, your daughter is at that stage of showing her independence by either eating or not. But don’t despair or give up because with time and patience she may find several vegetables that she does like.

Here are some things that you could try:

  • Set a good example

    A child’s eating behaviour can follow that of their parents, so set a good example and have your family meals together. If they see you eating vegetables, then out of habit they might copy – a good excuse for the whole family to eat healthily.

  • Don’t nag

    Whatever you do make sure that you don’t nag, force, bribe or bargain with your child. Power struggles don’t often work, and it may mean your daughter refuses to try different foods completely. This could make you even more stressed.

  • Set a routine

    Have a routine at meal times. Plan the meals beforehand, trying NOT to get into the habit of cooking 2 meals – one for the children and another for the parents.

  • Patterns

    This may sound strange but children actually like things in patterns. They like their food separated on a plate. This could be made fun by arranging the food into a veggie face etc.

  • Involve

    Get your children involved in the preparation of the food. Helping may make them more interested in food, which will make them more enthusiastic at meal times

  • Try to understand

    Understand how your child sees things. If you tell a child that eating vegetables will keep them healthy the chances are that they still may not eat them. Try telling them instead that the vegetables will help them grow, they might understand that better.

  • Hide

    You could try hiding the vegetables by putting them in burgers, in pasta sauces etc. You can get loads of ideas if you search ‘hidden vegetable recipies’ on the Internet, like this Hidden Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie on the BBC Food pages.

  • Don’t give up

    Whatever you do, just don’t give up. Keep trying. Put little amounts of different vegetables with some of their favorite foods to encourage them.

Try not to listen when people tell you that fruit can be just as bad for your teeth as chocolate. Fresh whole fruit such as apples and bananas are fine, but just be aware that dried fruit contains sugar that sticks to a child’s teeth and can be harmful in large amounts.

Fruit contains fructose that is a type of sugar, but fructose is only harmful in large amounts and it is nearly impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit

Your child will gain nutrition from a wide variety of foods, not just vegetables. Don’t worry that she’s not get any nutrition at all just because she’s not eating vegetables. Look at the links below for further information about this.

If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

Good luck,

The FamilyPoint Cymru Team

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