You’ve snuck pureed vegetables into your child’s porridge, made funny faces with the food served and even brought story-telling to greater heights with food as props! Nothing has worked.

“It is common for children to be fussy about their food and there may be several possible reasons for this,” says Ms Ong Jia Xin, Dietitian, Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Why won’t my child eat vegetables or fruits?

Food neophobia, the fear of unknown or new foods, peaks between two to six years of age. Children are also more likely to prefer the sweet taste (of foods) and may find some vegetables unpalatable. As a result, they may refuse to or eat only a limited variety of fruit and vegetables. Worried and anxious parents may try different ways to get their child to eat them but this may exacerbate the problem as mealtimes become stressful and unhappy for the child… and the parents too.

Why is it important that my child gets the daily recommended servings of vegetables and fruits?

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Kids should be encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables – there is a rainbow of colours to choose from – which provides a rich source of antioxidants, instead of sugary snacks and fast food, which are high in fat and sugar. The vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables provide the following benefits:

  • Promote good health and protect against disease, both now and in the future.
  • To ensure the child’s healthy growth and development.
  • Strengthen a child’s immune system and help fight illnesses. There is strong evidence to show that the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables can prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
  • The high-fibre content can aid in the proper function of the digestive system and prevent constipation.

What if my child will only eat fruits and not vegetables? Isn’t that just as beneficial?

It’s important to note that a child’s food preferences may determine his future dietary habits. Fruit and vegetables of different colours contain differing amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eating only fruits may mean that your child is missing out on nutrients found in vegetables. Thus, it is important to receive the benefits from a wide range of these essential nutrients by eating a variety of both fruits and vegetables. For example, compared to fruits, most vegetables are better sources of calcium, iron and folate. Moreover, some fruits are higher in calories compared to most vegetables. For an overweight child, excessive consumption of fruits may lead to further weight gain if fruits are replacing his intake of vegetables.

Is it OK for my child to eat only one vegetable for a long period of time, and why? After all he is getting fibre and he’s eating something!

Similarly, eating just one vegetable means that your child is likely to be missing out on essential nutrients that are available in other vegetables of different colours. For example, carrots are high in vitamin A, while spinach is high in folate. Since eating habits and tastes are formed from an early age, it is important that parents provide a variety in their children’s diet from young so that they will be less likely to develop nutritional deficiencies in the long-term.

Read on for tips on getting your child to eat his or her vegetables.

Ref: Q15