Kids Don't Like Vegetables. Deal With It.

Several years ago I was on a phone call with one of my sisters. She began venting about how her children were not eating. “What are you feeding them?” I asked. She rambled off several different food items, most of which were vegetables. I began to explain to her why kids don’t like vegetables, and how she could get around it, but her religious convictions immediately got in the way and she began yelling at me for suggesting that kids’ aversion to vegetables has an evolutionary origin. She never got them to eat better.

I recently became aware of an insane trend of parents violently assaulting their kid’s stuffed animals to coerce them into eating. Let me tell you, this behavior will produce an alcoholic adult out of that child. Subjecting your kid to stress like this is one of the quickest ways to ruin their life. Why are you harming them to get them to eat a shitty meal you probably didn’t cook very well in the first place? You are obviously not concerned for their welfare, since you are abusing them emotionally. The only thing they will learn from this experience is that you are a horrible person unworthy of their trust. Being a parent is not an excuse to employ our worst human traits.

Children dislike eating vegetables for one simple reason—they are more sensitive to potentially toxic and anti-nutrient chemicals in food. Anyone who is a parent knows that kids will put everything in their mouth. This leads to the accidental ingestion of many non-food items such as Legos. But you know what this will never accidentally go into a baby’s mouth? Broccoli. This is not an accident. This is not a universal practical joke played by God to make your job miserable. Babies have an instinct to put things in their mouth, including dirt, because it is how our bodies acquire beneficial bacteria. The infant/child gut is one which is designed to host only specific types of microorganisms which help us digest food and synthesize important nutrients like short chain fatty acids and vitamin K which we cannot synthesize on our own. The problem is that many plants in nature are potentially toxic, and since adults can hardly keep an eye on children for hours at a time, let alone every hour of the day, our ancestors naturally developed a heightened sensitivity to potentially toxic chemicals as children as a natural protective mechanism to keep our species alive. It is a good thing that children have this aversion to toxic and anti-nutritive chemicals. If you work with this fascinating characteristic of human nature instead of fighting it your child can develop a better microbiological gut which will will in turn help them become a more healthy adult.

Heat destroys many anti-nutritive chemicals, which is why cooking food can lead to better receptivity in children, and the reason broccoli and cheese even exists is to mask the taste of broccoli, and cheese is usually excellent nutrition as long as it’s not some cheap, crappy, additive laced imposter. But if your child won’t eat certain things don’t force them. The foods they respond to well are often better for them anyway—fruit is the primary subsistence for children, and is chock full of nutrients and good sugars to fuel cell growth and a healthy metabolic rate. You can also use fruit to stimulate their appetite, making them hungry more often and thus more likely to eat other food items, so long as they are not from the most offensive ones. The types of sugars in fruit stimulate the metabolic rate, in part because fruit is traditionally a sign of warm seasons and more plentiful food sources. When the metabolic rate is running well the body also uses up calories instead of storing them, so this in turn translates into increased hunger responses. Diets which contain only bread and grains don’t have this effect, so a child’s hunger impulse can actually be turned off. Worse, most grains, especially common wheat, stimulate inflammation and lower the metabolic rate which in turn creates cranky, irritable, irascible children and can even stunt their growth or cause them to have metabolic diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and depression as they grow. Pre-made foods, snacks, and desserts like ice cream are also often filled with harmful additives like allergenic carrageenan or other gums and toxic agricultural chemicals which can make these problems so much worse. Feeding your kids fruit keeps their metabolic rate up, which in turn keeps them resilient and relaxed. If you can’t feed them certain foods, stop trying. It’s not doing anyone any good. You are not a bad parent if your kids won’t eat certain things. You are fighting nature, not your offspring. Find foods they will eat and feed those instead, and when all else fails there’s nothing wrong with some real ice cream for dinner.