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  • Beth Chiodo RD, LDN, CWC

Dr. Seuss can teach parents and kids alike about healthy eating.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about my favorite Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, and what it can teach both parents and kids about healthy eating.

One of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy is food preference, or rather lack of food preference for healthy foods. Some of this truly has to do with genetics and taste receptors, but much of it has to do with social influence and the fact that we haven’t experienced the many delicious ways that healthy foods can be prepared or we are afraid to try them.

Food neophobia is a very real term used to refer to the fear of trying new foods. This is slightly different from picky eating, which is the reluctance to eat foods that are both familiar and unfamiliar. Both of these conditions can be influenced by age, gender, personality type, social influence, and willingness to try new foods.

It’s interesting because both children and adults can suffer from food neophobia, and this can be a major reason why our diets fall short of where they should be. Behavior interventions, like early life exposure, repeated exposure, and others are shown to improve both of these. As a parent, it’s easy to give up after repeated attempts to offer a particular food. However, don’t give up as it can take 15 or more times before your child accepts a particular food. THIS IS A LOT OF TIMES! Be persistent. It will pay off.

Many parents are worried about wasting food, but also cite their child’s unwillingness to eat vegetables as a reason not to buy them. These parents also cite eating their children’s leftovers as a reason for their own weight gain, especially when it’s favorites like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Kill two birds with one stone and make it your goal to eat their leftover veggies! You will eat more vegetables, they see you eating the vegetables (which is extremely important), and you are bringing your child one step further to eating more, too.

In Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-Am encourages us to try foods we don’t think we will like. He is repeatedly met with rejection, but he persists. His persistence pays off when the unnamed main character finally tries the green eggs and ham and realizes that he like them! Do the same at home. Be persistent. Even though your child rejected them on the 14th try, he might accept them on the 15th.

People who suffer from food neophobia or picky eating tend to be very sensitive to texture and prefer fruits and vegetables raw instead of cooked, and firmer rather than mushier. Roasting vegetables (drizzling them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and baking them at 400F until golden brown) caramelizes the natural sugars, bringing out their sweetness and natural flavors. They taste way better than when steamed or boiled, and the edges get crispy, which tends to be a more universal texture preference. These tips are good for kids and adults alike.

I’m including a recipe for Green Eggs and Ham that comes from the Blog, 100 Days of Real Food: . The recipe calls for blending up the kale or spinach and eggs together, removing the separate texture of the spinach, but retaining the vitamins, nutrients, and health benefits of the dish. You can serve this with low sodium ham and whole grain toast for a protein-rich, nutrient-dense breakfast. Giving it a fun name, like Silly Nilly Eggs or Funny Bunny Eggs is also proven to help!

Give this a try tomorrow in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. You might find yourself saying, “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, Thank you, Sam I am.”

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