We’ve got a doctor’s advice on how to help kids try veggies and other new foods and enjoy what’s on their plates. Our Q&A with Indianapolis pediatrician Nerissa Bauer reveals expert tips on child nutrition.

Here’s a shot in the arm for moms trying to get their kids to eat veggies: Some good nutritional advice direct from a doctor.

We’ve invited Indiana pediatrician and professor Nerissa Bauer to talk about kid nutrition, health and how to guide them to better eating. A mom herself, Dr. Bauer knows firsthand that introducing new foods to kids can be a challenge. But, she urges, don’t give up.

“It can take up to 10 times of re-introducing food to children before they really latch on,” she said.

We asked Dr. Bauer a variety of common questions we hear from our own Vegy Vida moms and others. She shared her expertise on kid health, explains why kid tastes change and how to overcome new-food challenges. Following are excerpts of her interview.

Vegy Vida: What is the biggest health concern among kids today? 

bauer-nerissa_08-5x7Nerissa Bauer: There is not just ONE thing. Obesity, gun violence and childhood mental health and poverty-related problems (food insecurity, housing, violence, trauma) are hot issues. However, pertinent to the work I do, I am interested in the mental wellness of children and performance in school.

VV: What can parents do? 

NB: Parents can advocate for more recess time, physical activity and try to strive to have sit-down family meals. (Use) dinner as a time to reconnect with each other and enjoy a nutritious meal. Food is often a very big part of family traditions, especially around the holidays, and it fosters face-to-face conversation.

VV: What are a couple of key differences between kids today and 20 years ago? 

NB: Given how technologically connected our world is and how busy we all are, (I advise) making sure we carve out that time each day to slow down and spend together. (This) is critical to families, nutrition and mental wellness. Moreover, as recess has been whittled down or done away with in some schools, it is even more important that parents try to provide/seek out nutritious sources of food for families to promote health and well-being.

VV: Why do many young children, around 4 or 5, begin to dislike foods they happily ate as babies?

NB: Kids at that age are trying to become more independent and they are also eating (foods) not mashed or as a puree. Texture seems to be a big deal for some children.

VV: What are the best foods for kids? 

NB: Kids should eat a varied diet. I love to tell kids to eat the ‘colors of the rainbow’ and try to have a variety of fresh fruits and veggies on their plate. Kids need to eat five or more servings of fresh fruits or vegetables every day.

VV: What advice would you give parents whose kids resist veggies? 

NB: Don’t give up! It can take up to 10 times of re-introducing food to children before they really latch on. You might want to introduce veggies by doing a sensory activity. Have them hold it raw and describe how it feels, smells and tastes. Then have them try the food made in various forms (steamed, mashed and in foods they already enjoy). Have them help you pick out recipes that they might want to try with the vegetable and involve them in the preparation!

VV: How do you get your kids to eat veggies? 

NB: We have a rule in my house that we try all the food on our plate. I also involve my kids in cooking and spending time in the kitchen. I think as adults if we can model these behaviors and encourage their involvement, kids are more willing to try things they have a hand in making!

VV: Any tips on how to easily include veggies in the lunch box?

NB: I love searching Pinterest for cute bento box ideas to package food and make it visually appealing. In addition to smell and taste, the visual aspect of how food is presented can make kids eager and spark their interest in picking it up and trying it.

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