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In the Waiting Room — What's for dinner? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, September 06, 2013 12:00 AM

My son’s favorite cake has always been carrot cake. He wanted it for his birthday, he wanted it for holidays and whenever he saw it at the store, he would ask for it. So it surprised me when I asked him if he wanted a slice of carrot cake when I saw it on a restaurant menu and he said no. He said he didn’t like carrot cake anymore. I was curious as to what caused this sudden change.

“I didn’t know it had carrots in it,” he informed me.

“It is called carrot cake. That might have given you a clue.”

“I thought they called it that because it had a frosting carrot on it.”

“Really, well I’m glad you finally cracked their code. I’ll inform Wikileaks of the breaking news. “

It didn’t matter to him that it still tasted the same as it always had. Once he was aware that it actually contained a …gasp… vegetable, he no longer wanted it.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of vegetables that he will eat voluntarily; all other vegetables are a negotiation. He believes that if someone can give up meat to become a vegetarian, he should be able to give up vegetables to become a junkatarian. If it was up to him he would subsist completely on chicken nuggets and fruit loops (which despite the name, doesn’t actually contain any fruit, so maybe I can somewhat understand his carrot cake confusion).

I am not alone in the vegetable struggle. Many parents are going through the same struggles with their kids. It isn’t surprising really. The taste buds of kids are overly sensitive to bitter tastes so foods that have a bit of a bite to them are perceived as distasteful, whereas a sweeter taste is pleasant to them. It is no surprise that the preferred vegetables of most children are carrots (my son not included), corn and peas, which have a sweeter profile than many vegetables.

You can often get around this by preparing them with a sweet sauce, such as a sweet and sour stir-fry or using a salad dressing for dipping. Sweet potatoes are a good vegetable that we often forget about once they are off pureed foods but kids often really like them sliced with a glaze or baked like French fries and dipped into sauce. Cheese is also a great way to make vegetables more palatable to the picky eater, a fondue dinner is a treat that most kids will enjoy.

For those of you familiar with the Food Network, you will have seen various cooking shows where the chef is judged by food critics. I have found that having a ‘vegetable challenge’ where all family members who are capable of cooking (even the little ones can get into the act with some help) are challenged to cook a vegetable in the most tasty way.

Advise them that you will be having “The Great Broccoli Challenge” this week and to find their recipe. Everybody gets to judge, make the prize something fun like a golden carrot that can be passed each week to the subsequent winner of the next challenge. Not surprisingly, kids love the opportunity to grade their parents and to beat them at various challenges. Who knows, you might have the next Mario Battali in your family.

Above all, don’t fret too much about their eating habits. Their taste buds will mature and they will become more adventurous in their options. In the meantime, encourage more fruits, perhaps add a vitamin to their diet and keep on offering various vegetables.

Remember, like everything else, this too shall pass.


Dr. Celeste Lopez graduated cum laude from The University of Utah College of Medicine. She completed her Pediatric residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. She is certified with The American Board of Pediatrics since 1992. In 2003 she moved her practice, Wishing Well Pediatrics, to Delphos and is located at 154 W. Third Street. She is the proud mother of a 13-year-old son.


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