HOW TO GET ATHLETES TO EAT VEGETABLES

My typical vegetable fight with my parents always went like this…

 

Oh heck no, I’m not going to eat vegetables!! I stared down at my plate, those green leaves were staring back at me. Bleh. I didn’t say those words out loud, but I am pretty sure my parents could see them written in the air by the expression on my face.

Dad piped up in a stern voice and let me know that there would be “NO DESSERT” if I didn’t eat my vegetables. Even more resistance bubbled up inside of me. How dare he threaten me with dessert. He is ruining supper for me.

Mom tried to encourage me to do the right thing. But it was too late. There appeared a dark cloud over the whole meal. My stomach physically twisted a bit, and I tuned everyone out.

Why vegetables can be the all-stars of the team and why I named them SUPERFOODS 

Here’s the thing, a balanced meal contains vegetables. You have known this fact your entire life. It’s just that vegetables do not always get to be the star of the meal, and many of us do not look forward to eating them. 

We need to market vegetables better. We need to stop treating them like the side show and make them the stars of our meals. That is why they need a place that is superior or “super”. They need to be listed among the most super of foods because they are linked with the best health outcomes AND best human performances. If you don't take mom and dad's word for it, here are 3 scientific reasons eating vegetables is important to human life, health, and performance.

1. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, and squash allow you to see well and maintain your vision throughout your life.

2. Whole, fibre-rich vegetables protect the body from illness. 

3. Spinach, arugula, dark leafy greens, celery, and red beetroots can improve oxygen flow to your working muscles during sport. 

 

HOW TO START EATING NEW VEGETABLES IN 4 STEPS

Step 1

Create a vision board with key words around the vegetables that you will focus on. Find enticing pictures that make the vegetable look delicious to eat. Like anything in life, having a vision and a plan makes the goal possible. Make sure to focus on a small selection of vegetables to avoid overwhelm.

A vegetable SUPERPOWER vision board to start eating the superpowered vegetables!

Step 2

Plan which days you will eat the superfoods using the language from the vision board. If you are a parent trying to introduce new vegetables to your child, give the kids some control of the situation and make them part of the plan. Have your kids choose when they will eat the superfood vegetables. Ask them: what day are you going to eat the baby carrots that will fire up your week? Do not ask them to come up with the plan as this is too open to start with. Keep reusing the language from the vision board in your menu planning.

For example:
Monday lunch: baby cut carrots that will fire up your week
Tuesday supper: mini zucchini sticks that will power your hockey stick to score a goal

Step 3

This step is the most challenging: challenge the taste buds, and expose the pallet. 

Some experts believe that most pickiness is not real and in fact it is simply a lack of exposure and acceptance of the food. Think about it. Are you open to eating crickets at your next meal? You probably just had a negative reaction about the thought of eating a cricket (for me it’s all those legs and those bug eyes!). However, if I started to call crickets a savoury fast track body booster that will heighten your day… you might start to envision the possibility of yourself eating crickets. Just this first internal vision gets the ball rolling.

I like 21 day challenges for exposure challenges. Eat a less liked or disliked food for 21 days in a small quantity you get 21 exposures. And, if you eat the disliked food 2 times per day you are getting to 42 exposures… and ideally acceptance of this food to your tongue, mind, and body.

Step 4

Exposure, exposure, exposure. Never give up, let up, or feel discouraged – you are not alone, picky vegetable eaters are common! Here’s the thing, if you are an avid vegetable eater your child will likely end up being one too. So keep exposing them to great recipes with vegetables. If your spouse never grew out of picky eating (or yourself) then you should not expect to raise a child that is open to all foods.

If you are a picky vegetable eater then I encourage you to delve into steps 1-3! Keep the language positive as you move through this experience. If the food you are eating “tastes like poo poo” as some children have been known to say, then add on a qualifier such as:

 

“It tastes like poo poo today… so it will be really interesting to try eating it again tomorrow and see if my brain changes my taste buds!”

I created a 21 day challenge based on this strategy and was very happy with the outcome. Both of my kids participated (11 yo and 9 yo). Neither one of them will say that they “like” the food item they drew after 21 days of consuming it, but, they now recognize that it wasn’t so bad. Most important to me is, it has opened doors for the kids to try new things with less fear. I plan to run this challenge again after school is out in a few weeks.
Here are some key notes that I took:
1. Both kids wrote down five of their least favourite foods and blindly drew one from their own bowl. They decided that they would each try both foods everyday. Our challenge foods were lentils and celery.
2. I made sure I had enough of each food prepped and ready days ahead of time so I didn't have extra work everyday.
3. I let the kids dress up the food if needed, eg. add salsa to the lentils, put peanut butter on the celery.

Brenda, sports mom

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How do you try new foods? Share your strategies in the comments. 

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