To the Four-Year Old Gagging on Overcooked Brussel Sprouts

download (8)I remember vividly those overcooked Lima beans that Great-Aunt Maisy forced my sister and I to eat before we were allowed even a sip of milk. 

imagesCAAYM7KHMy great-aunt’s words still ring in my ears,

” There are starving children in Africa who would beg to eat theses beans.”

To which my intellectual, wry-witted great-uncle would mutter under his breath to us,

“Why don’t we package theses Lima beans up and ship them off to Africa?”

Giggling in conspiratory pleasure, my sister and I managed to gulp the offending beans down by chewing and thus tasting these beans as little as possible. Then there is the image, etched into my brain, of a tiny me sitting at the table, trying to shudder down cooked carrots. I was not a picky eater but Lima beans, cooked carrots and canned chicken noodle soup tasted disgusting to my four-year old self. Thank God we’re not in the 1950’s anymore, when parents were told not to spoil or indulge their children by considering their preferences. The standard line was,

” Until you eat everything on your plate, you won’t get another thing to eat!”

The perennial conflict: kids and many adults versus vegetables.

The Canadian Food Guide tells us to eat a huge amount of fruit and veggies, something like 5-10 servings a day. How on earth do you coerce a tiny child to eat all those vegetables? At least we now stir fry veggies so they are still crunchy but hot and incorporate sauces that we can buy or make. These subtle changes in cooking methods can entice any reluctant taste buds. Another secret trick; grate cheese on any hot food. Melted, gooey, cheese transforms any vegetable into a kid’s dream food. Even thirty years ago we put peanut butter on celery with raisins and called it ants on a log and cut up raw vegetables to dip in salad dressing.

It was my adult children who demonstrated how to grate carrot or zucchini into everything from cake, soup to spaghetti sauce with no one being the wiser or serve spaghetti sauce on hot but crunchy bean sprouts or spinach instead of wheat noodles. It’s actually fun to create new ways to sneak extra vegetables into meals.

There are two facts that kept me sane in my early years as a little kid’s chef

1. Parents should offer a new food at least three times before cautious eaters will eat more than a nibble.  (My rule is that you must try at least a nibble.) Please, no pleading, bribing or threats. Simply relax and offer different foods.

2. When scientists in a British study offered toddlers whole tables of different healthy food, the little kids instinctively ate a balanced diet in the long run. Now it might be 11 bananas on one day and mainly milk the next but after a thirty-day period, two-year olds chose a perfectly balanced diet! So relax adults; just exercise a few tricks without resorting to pressure tactics and add a huge dollop of humour. and kids will eat vegetables. Trust me. I have had decades of experience.

Important mantra to repeat in the midst of a raging food battle,

“This too will pass!!!”

So, don’t bother fighting because little people will just dig in their heels. Get them to taste just a nibble smothered in a tasty dip and then let them eat a healthy alternative. Food digests better when everyone is calm. Beside, kids do have more sensitive taste buds than we do. And have fun trying to out-wit them.


12 thoughts on “To the Four-Year Old Gagging on Overcooked Brussel Sprouts

  1. Boy does this bring back memories. I had great aunt Maisy everywhere I went as a kid. They were Mom and Grandma’s. Mom I could get by with it sometimes, Dad never, and Grandmother’s, “HANG IT UP!” The way I got my kids to eat vegetables is by their age. If they were three they got three “peas” put on their plate. As they got older the number of pea’s went up. Over time they developed a taste for them. Loved reading this and God Bless, SR


  2. I was disguising food before it became fashionable. I’m all for it. Until ten years ago, I loathed brussle sprouts. Maybe it’s the way that I cooked it. I now shred it into a soup or stew (so I guess it’s disguised). 🙂


  3. Haha, those overcooked, shriveled lima beans bring back memories! I like them OK now, though, as long as they’re cooked properly. As a kid, I liked just about everything, and got lucky in having twin boys who are the same way. Your tips for getting picky kids to eat veggies are spot on…cheese makes everything better, and there’s no limit to the foods you can hide spinach, pumpkin puree, or black beans in….even brownies.


  4. Great post! For me growing up, it was turnips. My brothers and I hated them. I would literally gag on them. But once a year we were FORCED to eat them. I would smother them in mashed potatoes and ketchup … and still gag!

    As an adult, I hated brussel sprouts, until I saw a different way to cook them on Anderson Live. Peel and shred them and fry them in olive oil. They taste like popcorn. Too bad this doesn’t work for turnips! 🙂



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