The Child Who Doesn't Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Some children don't eat vegetables; others don't eat fruits. Still others don't eat either! If your child turns down either - or both - you are likely to be concerned because you have learned that they are important. First of all, relax. Fruits and vegetables carry the same nutrients, so a child can be well-nourished on either. Second, back off. Pressure - even nice pressure such as bribes and cheerleading - doesn't help. Your child thinks, ''if they have to do all that to get me to eat it, it can't be good.'' Third, enjoy the food yourself. It may take years, but if you maintain a division of responsibility, sooner or later your child will learn to like the foods you enjoy. Keep in mind the word is enjoy. If you force food down because it is good for you, your child will know that and not learn to like it.

Keep these thoughts and strategies in mind about your child's learning to enjoy vegetables and fruits (as well as other unfamiliar foods):

  • Get started with family meals, if you aren't having them already. Maintain a division of responsibility in feeding.
  • Observe. Your child sneaks up on new foods: He looks and helps you cook but doesn't eat, he watches you eat it but doesn't eat it, he puts it in his mouth and takes it out again.
  • Interpret. Your child's sneaking-up behavior is a sign of learning to like new foods, not rejecting them.
  • Persist. Most children and grownups learn to like new food after they have done the sneaking-up bit 15 or 20 times - or more! Most cooks give up on a food after three turn-downs.
  • Flavor. Tone down strong tastes with salt, fat, sauces, bread crumbs, herbs, and spices.

For more about preparing vegetables in appealing ways and helping your child and yourself learn to enjoy them (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.

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