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Dr. Brazelton Says Forget Vegetables

Baby Wellness: Forget the Vegetables

As parents, we often worry about our children getting the proper food, nutrition, water, education, and other nurturing necessities. As covert moms publish books like the Deliciously Deceptive and the Sneaky Chef, which aim to help disguise healthy food options under the masks of cupcakes and waffles, one esteemed pediatrician says to forget the vegetables.

Curiosity got this cat. Having forced, I mean spoon, fed my child peas and carrots, I was interested in why Dr. T. Berry Brazelton thought that the greens weren't as essential as I thought they were. To see what he has to say on the subject,


Having hated vegetables himself as a child, Dr. Brazelton advises parents:

I tell mothers, and grandmothers, “Forget about vegetables.” They turn pale. Open their eyes wide. Feel faint. I offer them a seat, and repeat, “Forget about vegetables.” As they gasp for breath, I continue, “When a young child struggles with you over food, you won’t win. The more you struggle, the more he’ll hate whatever you’re trying to shovel into him. Back off. Apologize. Let him know that you know that only he can swallow the stuff you prepare for him.” . . . You can cover them with a multivitamin during this temporary period — usually between 2 and 3 years old – when any battle over food will backfire into even worse nutrition. They’ll make it through this with enough milk, meat, eggs, grains and fruit.” . . .

As a pediatrician, I would carefully monitor for growth and general health. Height and weight need to be considered not only separately, but together, and not just at one single moment in time, but over time. The context of a child’s overall health, eating habits and activity level, and his parents’ height and weight, also need to be factored in. Any parent who is concerned about a child’s weight, height or eating certainly deserves to have this taken seriously by the child’s pediatrician.

Of course, the truth is that science is still working to identify all the active ingredients of vegetables, and how they promote health — and not all of these are contained in multivitamins. Yet even once this has all been fully worked out, there still will be certain basic bodily functions — such as eating, and breathing — that we can’t take over or control for children.

Jessica Seinfeld has written an intriguingly entitled book, “Deceptively Delicious,” in which she whips up a number of child-friendly disguises for vegetables. If you try this kind of maneuver, try not to make an issue of it, or to take your stealthy nutritional missions too seriously. Instead, keep mealtimes relaxing and enjoyable, and focus talk on fun things, but not on food.

Many children take time to acquire tastes for new foods, and their taste-sensing equipment actually matures with age. So in the meantime, you can introduce a vegetable over and over, in very small amounts, so that there is no pressure to try it. The tiny bit of new and different food should just repeatedly appear — without commentary, without pressure, without monitoring of or reaction to whether or not it is consumed. On the sixteenth time, you may be surprised to see the child give it a try, and you may be disappointed as you watch him spit it out. In the meantime, if you avoid processed sweets, and salty and fried foods, your child’s palate will not become overwhelmed with and addicted to these easy-reach taste blasts, and will be more likely to welcome the more subtle tastes of — vegetables.

Do you agree with Dr. Brazelton's perspective on vegetables?

Join The Conversation
sgdish sgdish 8 years
Just because someone has a Dr. in front of their name, doesn't mean they have all the answers. If a child doesn't try a veggie at least once, how can they acquire a taste. Believe me, my kids are 22 and 20, and will eat just about anything, and neither has a weight or health problem. However, my stepson won't eat ANY veggies or fruits, and it's difficult to find things he will eat unless it's bread or peanut butter. He has a weight problem and won't try anything, and this has been going on for years. If we go to a restaurant, the only thing he'll eat is french fries or rolls. You don't have to force feed, however, in the grand scheme of things, it's also about who is in charge at your home. Veggies are good for us, and usually lower in calories than other foods we eat, and usually not as costly as fruit or meats. My 20 and 22 year olds don't hate me for making them try everything... No one said being a parent would always be easy.
afordster afordster 8 years
No. When a meal is made for the family it is a balanced meal which includes vegetables. there are many more factors that come into play than just the nutritional value of the veggie. sometiems it is discipline and logistics. number one a mother of four should not need to make a seperate meal for each child. nor should the child feel it is just fine to pick and choose what they will eat from what is on their plate. many children at the time of potty training also may have constipation issues and dropping the vegetable isn't going to help. this pandering to childrens every whim and keeping them happy and avoiding an argument at all cost is the reaon we have so many disrespectaful wasteful spoiled children running around. I woud not send any of my children to this pediatrician.
leahandcecilia leahandcecilia 8 years
I have the two bite rule. You need to take two bites and then if you decide not to eat it.. ok. She gets at least a little bit in her and she still feels in control of what she is eating.. win/win.
Greggie Greggie 8 years
We do a lot of carrot juice as well, where you only need like two ounces to get what they need. They like carrot juice a lot, alone or with a little apple juice added.
Nak-Nak Nak-Nak 8 years
We've got a try everything at least once rule in our house and that includes vegis prepared in different ways. If you don't like it you don't have to eat it, but that doesn't mean I'll stop making it. And if my daughter says she doesn't like something we ask her why, so we (and she) can determine if it has to do with the way it is cooked, texture, or actual flavor. This has worked pretty well for us, as my daughter has discovered some vegis she like raw versus cooked, or cooked in a particular way. At 7, she's a pretty good eater and unafraid to try anything. Also we've never make a big deal about how much she eats of anything - it all seems to balance out.
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
I read somewhere that a child only needs a teaspoon or a tablespoon (times their age) of certain foods to make up a serving. So 2 and 3 year olds only need a few spoonfuls of veggies to get all they need. Do what my mom did and blend them in with other things. To this day I hate chunky vegetables in pasta sauce, but will always eat the exact same stuff if it's pureed first.
Mommy-of-Three Mommy-of-Three 8 years
I just have veggies at every meal and encourage the kids to try and eat them, but if they don't I don't force them. They eat plenty of fruit and always eat the basic veggies. Sneaking pureed vegetables into foods does nothing to teach children to eat vegetables. After a small amount of vegetable has been steamed, pureed and baked into something else, how much nutrition is left and how much are the kids actually getting ? I have been known to 'disguise' broccoli in melted cheese but they still know it's broccoli.
Greggie Greggie 8 years
Jessica Seinfeld plagiarized a book on hiding food, she didn't write it. But in any case, I don't agree with sneaking it into food anyway. I wholeheartedly agree that forcing a child to eat a food will only increase the chances that they'll hate it all the more, and resist it more in the future. I don't "give up" but I don't offer alternatives either. They don't have to eat everything on their plate, they just need to try it to see if they like it.
Bksuga Bksuga 8 years
Um i dont know i would still try to sneak it in thier meals i woudnt just give up like that. but then again when i was little i didnt have a choice i either ate what i had or i didnt eat.
Dana18 Dana18 8 years
This is is good sound advice. But it is still frustrating when they don't eat a well balance meal.
anniekim anniekim 8 years
This advice makes a lot of sense to me. Overall attention to diet and growth--and developing palate. Although, I'm lucky enough to have kids that like vegetables, so it's easy for me to say. If only my husband would eat his veggies...
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