We all know how difficult it can be to get children to try new foods, particularly if they are of a more “agricultural” bent. In other words, children don’t always want to eat their vegetables (some adults I know don’t either, but that’s not what we’re talking about now). Some kids are wary of foods they have never eaten before, so they will not try them. It can all be very frustrating. What is a beleaguered parent to do?
Luckily, models for healthy or more adventurous eating can be found in books. Books are a great way to expose children to role models who appreciate the benefits of a well-balanced or more varied diet. Books are more than just information; they provide examples of how to be in the world and among other people. The books below are perfect to share with children who may be in need of a little encouragement to branch out from their usual kid fare.
A good way to introduce a child to vegetables is to encounter them in their natural state, fresh and bright with color. Farmer´s Markets are a great place to start. The pages of Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant are filled with beautiful high-resolution photographs of vegetables artfully arranged in a local market. Follow along with the rhyming vegetable chant! The colors of produce featured in the book impart an important nutritional lesson: the more color on your plate, the better. Encourage your child to see how many colors she can get on their plate. Are you up to the challenge as well?
Many of us would perhaps agree that pizza is the best ever, but do we have all the data available to support that claim? In Every Night is Pizza Night a young pizza enthusiast (she really LOVES pizza, to the exclusion of anything else) sets out to investigate whether or not pizza really is the best. "How do you know that pizza is best if you never try anything else?" her mom asks. So our protagonist visits her neighbors and tries their favorite foods: bimbimbap, tagine, red beans and rice, dumplings – it's all so good! Does this mean that pizza is not the best? Along the way, our protagonist discovers that what makes a food really good is sharing it with other people.
Of course, too much of anything, even a good thing, can be repetitive. In Gazpacho for Nacho, a young boy’s love for gazpacho is too much for his mother to cater to at every whim. He will eat nothing but gazpacho. So his mother decides to teach him how to make his own gazpacho. Will he then be inspired to see what else he can cook? Involving children in the kitchen is a great way to pique their interest in what goes on their plate. Some children are more apt to try something new if they have had a hand in making it. The Spanish words scattered throughout the book make this book a fun read aloud. These books, and many others about healthy eating, are available at the library.