My daughter's palate is expanding at last

Have trouble getting your child to eat vegetables?

My daughter had a much more nutritious diet in her baby food days. Back then, I could give her peas, carrots, peaches, sweet potatoes, whatever, and she would eat it with enthusiasm.

That changed when she started on solid food and her preferred entrée for every meal became grilled cheese, or rather, just the cheese, because she would without fail peel the bread from the sandwich and toss it aside. And as she entered the "cheese" phase, any interest she had in vegetables seemed to have gone out the window.

When she was a baby, sweet potatoes had been one of her favorites. So when my daughter was about 2 years old, I cut up some sweet potatoes and baked them, thinking she would love them as much as she did the strained-form. She did not. I had trouble even getting her to take a bite. She just touched one of the sweet potato fries with her tongue then announced it was "yucky."

She also wasn't a big fan of meats and beans. If I put beef or beans in front of her, she would just say she didn't like "the brown stuff." I had less trouble getting her to try poultry, but she never seemed to know when to stop chewing it, so while she didn't mind the taste, she still didn't like to eat it. (Incidentally, I remember having the same problem when I was her age. For some reason, because of the texture, I would just kept chewing and chewing because it never seemed like it was chewed up enough to swallow. Eventually, I got the hang of it and had forgotten it was ever a problem until I saw my daughter doing the same thing.)

When she started pre-K last year, I was hopeful watching her classmates eat their veggies would encourage her to give them a shot as well. My hopes were dashed one day early in the school year when I asked what she had for lunch.

"Cake and pizza and broccoli," she said, "but the pizza was not good, and I did NOT eat that broccoli."

"You didn't like it?" I asked.

"I didn't eat it," she replied.

"You didn't even try it?"

"No," she said. "It tastes like trees."

"Why do you think it tastes like trees if you didn't even try it?" I asked.

"Because it looks like trees," she said.

And that's about how our conversations regarding her school meals have gone ever since -- she doesn't eat the vegetables, rarely eats the entrée, but never fails to eat the dessert.

At home, I've even tried coating the good-for-her stuff with cheese, but then all she does it eat the cheese and leave the veggies.

"Just keep putting the good foods in front of her," my husband's stepmom recommended. "She'll start to try it eventually."

That was more than three years ago, and I'm just now starting to see signs of it paying off — a little anyway. Just this past week, I've seen her eat beans and chicken (the chewing problem seems to have gone away), so at least I know she's getting her protein.

Now if I could just get her to eat her vegetables.

One of my friends said she uses dips to get her 4-year-old to eat her veggies, which I'm reluctant to try because burying her veggies in cheese didn't help.

For several months now, I've thought about starting a small garden in our backyard. I don't know for sure what I'd grow, but I envision getting my daughter to help. Maybe if she has a hand it making it grow, she'll be more encouraged to try it.

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