Monday, August 30, 2010

purple beans: kids are naturally excited about foods

M's summer camp had a lovely little garden. I was bemused when a note came home one day with, "she even tried green beans!" (They are a favorite.)

We don't need to make smiley faces out of foods, or over-sell foods with crazy names or try to get kids to try new foods with bribes, reward stickers or praise.

Case in point? Purple beans.
After camp one day, M and I harvested in the garden. I got to try two new foods (for me too) with my daughter. That was pretty cool! We picked the above deep purple beans and snacked on them right off the vine, and brought about a dozen home. We also tried "golden raspberries" which I insisted were simply unripe, but M assured me was how they were supposed to be and were actually glorious, champagne-colored raspberries...

So we brought some beans and berries home to share with Dad but ran into the gaggle of neighborhood kids across the street. M skipped over to show them the veggies she picked and then doled out beans to share. Of the 7 kids there, all but one (who has food allergies which can contribute to an understandable caution about food) eagerly tried and ate the beans. No bribing, no rewarding, no faces, no lectures about vegetables. "Cool! A purple bean!"
"That's awesome!" We ran out before D got a chance to taste them.

It just reminded me again that the HOW of food and introducing it is so important. It was positive, no pressure, fun and a reminder that kids are naturally curious about new foods and we largely screw it up as parents and caregivers when we try to control the process.
Also, research shows that kids are more likely to try foods that they grow or have a hand in, but it is not a guarantee :)

Have you tried new foods with your kids?

Addendum: THANK YOU for the comments. I knew all of these children VERY well, one mom was there, I know the specific allergies of the child in question. I was with my child and asked permission from the mom (the neighbors all tend to be pretty free with sharing foods with my M as well) But, you are RIGHT. Always check with a parent before offering food to any child (preferably ever) but especially if you don't know the child's allergy history. M often wants to share things with kids I don't know at school/parks etc, and I always either ask, or tell the kids kindly that I can't share food unless the parents OKs it. Kids are pretty savy and used to this these days, I find.


  1. We have also come across a lot of kids from all income brackets and backgrounds that really love vegetables, so I agree that kids not liking vegetables is a myth. Maybe the problem is that parents want their kids to like vegetables immediately without giving the kids a chance to get comfortable with them.

    I introduced roasted green beans to a friend of mine and told her that will eat them like french fries when we're having them with other food we eat with our hands and she ended up introducing the food to her kids as green fries and they just gobbled them up. But I don't think she ever tried to convince them they were equivalent to french fries, so maybe a little honesty goes a long way.

  2. As a food allergy parent, it scares me to death that a neighborhood kid would offer my kid something to eat. I think that in today's world, children should not be so willing to share food with another child. Period. While I applaud that your daughter was offering a lovely snack, it could pose a threat to another child. Knowing that the child does have food allergies should make you, as the parent, more considerate about offering food to someone else's child. If another child or parent knows my child has an allergy and then offers him food--I'd be very upset. Nobody should offer any food to a known food-allergic child.

    My youngest is allergic to broccoli. Yes. Broccoli. As in "has had an anaphylactic reaction to broccoli". Broccoli is a "healthy" food, but it can kill my son. We work very hard at teaching him to not take any food from anyone but his parents but the lure of a child offering might be too great to resist. His broccoli allergy also means that all store bought veggie trays are off limits, as he has reacted from cross-contamination.

    Just my .02 as a food allergy parent.

    I think your blog is a great resource and it has provided me with lots of food for thought (ha ha).

  3. Thanks so much Dorothy for the comment, (slap forehead!) I addended the original post because I wanted to make sure folks didn't have to sift through the comments section to find the bit about offering food to children. Thanks so much, and I hope you keep sharing! Food allergies are a risk factor for feeding problems, so I'd love to find ways to be more helpful to the food allergy community. Thanks again!

  4. So, another similar story that drove this point (that kids will be excited about food if you let them) home to me..... On Monday, we had a cookout for Labor Day at our home and invited a lot of our colleagues and their families. We have several fruit trees in our yard, and my husband had the great idea to take the kids out in the yard and let them all pick a piece of fruit they wanted, which the kids LOVED. Most of them ate their piece on the spot and several asked when they were leaving if they could please pick another piece to take in their lunch the next day. It was very cute.

  5. love it! Common sense, eh? No need to lecture about anti-oxidants or cancer-fighting compounds... Yummy and lucky!

  6. Katja-thanks for your addendum. I'm quite terrified of what might happen to my son if someone were to offer him any of his allergens which is why I'm a proponent of teaching children to NOT share food. :)
    Food allergies create significant feeing problems, many of which my son has. It is a ridiculous balancing act here at our house-trying to get him to eat ANYTHING, trying to cook foods that he CAN eat, and trying to keep my older children happy with the limits their brother has. It's realy been a horrible ride thus far.