Vegetables and the Lies We Tell About Them

Every day, while driving to work, I see a billboard advertising pediatric care for a local hospital group.  ” You deserve a choice in pediatric care,” it touts, while featuring this photo:

child frowning at brussels sprouts

Clearly, the message is that brussels sprouts are yucky and you ought to have a choice in care that is less hideous than vegetables.

I have tried several times to photograph this offensive advertisement, but have been unsuccessful.  The last time I tried, Waze told me to cut it out and pay attention to the rush hour traffic all around me.  Sounded like a good idea…a good idea that left me without photographic evidence to support my outrage that the MEDICAL COMMUNITY is feeding the myth that children will not like brussels sprouts or perhaps even all vegetables. What an utter crock!  They ought to be ashamed of themselves!

As I’ve already told you, I know that I got really, really lucky with my son.  He was easygoing, food adventurous and just a good child. As a toddler, he ate salsa, all manner of vegetables, pickled herring in cream sauce on crackers, and haggis. (Before you go there, my ancestors are Danes and Scots. We eat things like pickled herring and haggis. It’s a thing.) He really ate anything that couldn’t outrun him.  Except ham. He hated ham and I wore it every time I tried to sneak it past him.

When he would fall down, bump his head or whatever, as long as there was no blood, I would respond with an “oops!” or an “oh! my head!” and play it off.  He would typically just rub the bump and go on his merry way. He had better things to do than lose valuable playing time by howling.

My point in telling you this is: he responded as he thought he should most of the time. He took many of his cues from me and my behavior and reactions. I generally didn’t impose drama or tastes on him and he responded accordingly. Children in Scandinavia eat herring and love it. Children in Korea dig kimchi. Indian children eat food so spicy the aroma alone makes my eyes water. My point is that, in large part, children eat what is available and what their culture tells them is good. There are, of course, those picky eater exceptions and those one-off dislikes (mine are celery and olives). I’m not going to argue that. What I am going to argue is that children don’t like vegetables.

They can understand messages as subliminal as the one on that billboard. They are suspicious of unfamiliar foods – like all of the vegetables that we don’t regularly prepare and eat. They don’t eat vegetables because our advertising and our children’s menus are full of fried nuggets, starchy mac and cheese, pizza rolls, toaster “pastries,” and other sweetened or fried Frankenfoods. With our color, glossy photos – and with our own plates – we are telling them that vegetables are bad.

In my search for the photo above, I also found this one:

child smiling about brussels sprouts

Same child. Same photo shoot. Totally different message.

This is the one the hospital (and we) ought to be living and advocating.


4 thoughts on “Vegetables and the Lies We Tell About Them”

  1. Interested to read of your good fortune as a parent! Thinking of the extremes parents went to in an effort to instill good nutrition habits reminded me of a popular (at least it was 35 yrs. ago in Boston, where I lived then) folk song called ‘Squalor’: (1st verse and chorus)

    (Peter Berryman)

    In the squalor of her awful little shack she sat
    With her grungy cat and her parakeet
    With rats a-runnin’ ’round the size of caribou
    Playin’ peekaboo with her filthy feet

    Eatin’ donuts with a spoon and drinkin’ Ovaltine
    Through a scum of green floating leisurely
    In a coffee cup of plastic from the Sally Ann
    Shakin’ in her hand out of misery

    cho: And it’s all because she didn’t eat her vegetables
    It’s all because she didn’t eat her vegetables as a kid
    Or maybe she didn’t chew them properly if she did.

    Sent from my iPad

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