How To Dad has got it right

Listen, if you haven’t yet watched How to Dad‘s YouTube Channel, you are missing deadpan humor, adorable kids, and surprisingly helpful parenting tips. Checking it out is worth a few minutes of your time – most of his videos are less than 5 minutes long and they always make my day. But today, I’m going to talk as a dietitian about what I like in this video. ↓

Watch this first 🙂

This video illustrates so many true things about teaching kids to eat vegetables – intentionally or unintentionally I’m not sure – but let’s break it down. How to Dad is trying to convince his toddler to eat a plate of broccoli and carrots with varying amounts of success.

She starts out by biting a carrot, and then putting it back on the plate without eating any

This is normal and good and it is how kids explore new foods. Any exposure to new foods is a step in the right direction. Licking, biting, touching, or even just smelling a new (or less liked) food gives a child more experience with a food and means they are becoming more interested or less scared of it. Even if they spit it out, it’s still progress. (And teaching them to politely spit out food can take some of the pressure out of trying new foods)

When the vegetables are covered with cheese or ketchup, she just eats the cheese and ketchup

There’s nothing wrong with using other preferred foods to make vegetables more palatable, but know it won’t always work. Kids will eat what they want. Same goes for hiding veggies – it might work, but kids are also pretty smart and might just see right through it.

“Pounding the table” doesn’t work

In this video it results in oh my goodness tiny adorable table pounding! But in real life, ordering or forcing kids to eat vegetables is more likely to result in a power struggle than learning to eat vegetables. They might eat them, but they’re more likely to view it as a chore than to learn to enjoy eating them, and who likes chores?

They play with their food

This has varying degrees of success – in fact most of the play doesn’t result in eating any vegetables, not until the end of the video. However, it does have the advantage of increasing exposure to and familiarity with the food (see point 1)

She eats the broccoli after watching her dad eat it

This is HUGE. Kids learn by watching and imitating you. If they never see you eating vegetables, they’re much less likely to want to eat them. On the other hand, if they see you regularly eating vegetables along with all other foods like it’s no big deal, they’re likely to grow up learning that vegetables are just something you eat, like hamburgers or toast.

She is having fun

Obviously these two have a positive relationship. Even when the dad is “pounding the table” she thinks its a fun game. And every interaction, even the ones that don’t result in eating vegetables, is happy. Obviously it’s unrealistic to expect you to have 100% happy moments with your kids (especially with a toddler), but making mealtimes an overall positive environment by having positive conversations, promoting good table etiquette, not creating power struggles, etc. can make a big difference in promoting an overall healthy relationship with food, not to mention trying new foods.

She eats the most vegetables when How to Dad isn’t even paying attention to her

The food is there in front of her, but there’s no pressure on her, and no one’s trying to get her to do anything.

There are a lot of attempts and not a lot of actually eating vegetables

Studies show kids may need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they even try it, not to mention liking it or eating it regularly. Being exposed to a food can eating it, but it can also include playing with the food, helping prepare the food, and smelling it, touching it or licking it (see the first point). It may seem like kids will never eat new foods, but don’t give up! If they never see it or interact with it, they will surely never learn to eat it!

I know it can be hard and frustrating, but you can do it! They can do it! You’re just helping them practice the skill of eating new foods, which like any skill, takes practice!

In summary, what should you learn from this?

Keep serving the vegetables, keep eating the vegetables (and let your kids see you doing it), don’t make it a big deal, be prepared that it might take a long time, and know that that’s ok.

Note this also applies to any other food that you want your kids to learn to eat, just substitute “fish”, “beans” or “croissants” for vegetables in the article above 🙂

If you’re looking for more information and encouragement on this topic, I also recommend checking out feedinglittles.com or following @feedinglittles . Great accurate information (they are a dietitian and occupational feeding therapist team), practical tips, and overall great positive attitude!

Want to read even more? Here are more resources:

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/end-mealtime-battles

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/keep-kids-out-of-the-clean-plate-club

https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/breast-feeding/introducing-new-flavors-to-babies

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666317308784

https://www.romper.com/p/how-many-times-does-a-child-have-to-try-a-food-before-they-like-it-more-than-you-think-17999317

https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/preventing-picky-eating-toddlers

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17635306

https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/childhood-feeding-problems/

Roasting Winter Vegetables

Skip right to the instructions.

I realize it’s almost spring, but it is still the time for winter vegetables – at least in the northern hemisphere. I’m thinking of squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, kobacha, and delicata squash. I’m also thinking of those hearty root vegetables: potatoes, turnips, carrots, and onions to name a few.

I’m here to tell you that if you have an oven, or even a toaster oven, roasting vegetables is highly recommendable. Why?

  1. Out of the total cooking time, only a small portion actually requires you to be in the kitchen. The rest is done by your oven while you read a book or wash your dishes or make the rest of your dinner or scroll through Instagram. I am writing this post while Brussels Sprouts roast in the oven
  2. It brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of these veggies – sometimes this can make them more palatable to kids (or adults) who aren’t vegetable fans
  3. Roasted vegetables are versatile: they can be a side for meat or eggs, stirred into pasta or cooked grains, cooled and put in a salad, or pureed to go in a soup or sauce.
  4. Everyone needs to eat vegetables. Roasted vegetables is a delicious way to eat vegetables that is adaptable to almost any diet pattern
  5. It’s a flexible and pretty forgiving method for cooking
  6. It will warm up your house and make it smell good

Imagine half your plate full of delicious roasted vegetables, either tender and sweetly-flavored or savory, browned, and crisp.

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven so it can be heating up while you prepare your vegetables. Preheat to 350 F if you want slow-cooked, tender and sweeter vegetables. Preheat to 500 F if you want crispy, browned vegetables that will roast faster. Or go for something in the middle. If you have something else you are baking (meat, fish, bread) and it needs a certain temperature, you can roast the vegetables at that temperature so it can all be in the oven at the same time. It’s flexible 🙂

2. Wash and cut your vegetables so they are pretty evenly sized (or skip this step altogether by using frozen vegetables, which are already washed and cut for you). It doesn’t really matter what size the pieces are as long as the size is fairly consistent. This is important so they will cook at the same rate. If they’re not exactly the same, it’s ok; they’ll just be cooked to slightly different levels. Watch this video from America’s Test Kitchen for instructions on how to cut vegetables safely. (Have a butternut squash? Here’s a video specifically on how to cut this sometimes tricky vegetable)

3. Put your veggies in a bowl and toss with oil. I like to add oil because it helps the seasonings stick, and it helps the vegetables not stick to the pan.

From a nutritional perspective, using a vegetable oil like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil can add some healthy fats, which are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A (which you’ll be getting from those yellow and orange veggies). Use a small amount if you are aiming for a low-fat or low-calorie diet (a teaspoon will go a long way). If you prefer to avoid adding oil altogether, I will refer you to the Minimalist Baker who has written this great post about oil-free vegetable roasting; it’s not an area where I have much experience.

4. Add seasoning and toss some more. This can be as simple as salt and pepper or a seasoned-salt. You can also get creative – use curry powder or garlic powder and oregano or taco seasoning – whatever sounds good to you. For a lower-sodium option, use only spices for flavor – no salt. Go light on seasoning at first. You can add more after it’s cooked if it’s too bland.

5. Roast! Spread the veggies out on a baking pan. You can line the pan with parchment paper, foil, or a silicone mat to help with clean up, but it’s not necessary (especially since you added some oil to your veggies). Now put them into the oven! Set your timer for 15 minutes.

6. After 15 minutes, shuffle the vegetables around on the pan by pushing them around with a big spoon or spatula and check to see if they are done by poking them with a fork to see how tender or crisp they are.

7. Keep roasting for 5-30 more minutes, (unless they are already done) until they are the texture you like. The amount of time will depend on which vegetables you are using (harder vegetables will take longer), the temperature of your oven, the size of the cut, and the texture you want.

Eat and enjoy!

What vegetables do you like to roast? How do you like to eat them? Share in the comments, or on instagram or facebook with #nutritionforrealhumans