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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?

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