The amazing story about the Kohlrabi caper
First of all I would like to assure you no child was harmed or any force needed for me to write this blog post. Neither was the Kohlrabi hidden fraudulently between two big slices of Marshmallows or was cut into tiny unnoticeable pieces and mixed into spaghetti Bolognese sauce. No! I’m talking about a unintentional (almost) honest measure that actually made the test object take a slice of Kohlrabi consciously in her tiny hands, shuffle it into her tiny mouth so her baby teeth could take a bite and chew it very cautiously.
I admit that I held my breath for the first two seconds while observing the reactions of the enlisted subject. You know the saying: “You never get a second chance for a first impression.” So it was all or nothing for the Kohlrabi. The first couple of chews were executed very carefully as she wanted to prevent an absolute gustatory disaster and spit it out. She didn’t want to shock her taste buds. Her eyes focused steady on one point on the concrete while chewing, so other sensory input would not distract her from a fair judgment.
During a break when we played tag I told her that I would have to nibble on some Kohlrabi to get faster. I also said, that I would love to share it with her but was afraid that she wouldn’t like it. And belief me I had bought this Kohlrabi for my own enjoyment and not with the intention to test it on an innocent child. However, she seemed to trust me on this one and then she said the most astonishing thing: “Maybe I’m going to like Kohlrabi.”
Me and Kohlrabi celebrated our victory in silence. If you had been there you probably would have noticed a sparkle in my eyes. Not so much because I was proud of my accomplishment (YES, I’m probably the only person on the planet who made a 4-year old eat Kohlrabi voluntary). No! I was so proud of that gorgeous child and my discovery. Because that day, she taught me one of the most important things about her species:
- We tiny people look up to you. You are our role models. I trust you (for now). If you say that eating Kohlrabi makes me run faster, I believe it. I will not judge Kohlrabi by its color, shape or smell. If you can run fast, than this will maybe make me run fast as well. If you however, mix Kohlrabi secretly with my most favorite foods, you have lost my trust and I will question and examine everything you put in front of me.
Crazy, isn’t it? What was I thinking? Why did I accuse this precious kid in front of me of not liking Kohlrabi? What made me think that feeding vegetables to kids is always an epic battle and that kids don’t get along with spinach like chalk and cheese. We all have seen these super cute pictures where bright orange carrot puree (or white cauliflower puree) evenly covers the baby’s smiling face, bib and hands. After drinking milk cooked vegetables are the baby’s first food and they don’t question it. So where did we adults take the wrong turn and start thinking that kids do not like eating vegetables?
For the ones who don’t know what “Kohlrabi” is here is a picture of this odd vegetable.
Is it because we provide too much snacking food and snacks that are high in sugar?
Do we have the tendency to stock baby strollers like a child approved mini bar or the cart the stewardess pushes in front of her? Orange juice, apple juice, 2% milk or chocolate milk? Would you like a straw or rather a Sippy cup? What can we offer you as a snack? We got cheerios in a Ziploc bag, zebra crackers in a Tupperware container or rather yellow cheezies in its original plastic bag?
What are we afraid of? That the kid will starve to death within the next two hours? And every time this little guy is whining or restless in its stroller we provide its favorite snacks because it must be hungry or entertained, right? And then the child learns: “Ok, so whenever I get upset for any reasons and I start whining, I will get sugary food (hungry or not), which will excite my brain.” It learns. I’m upset – I eat sugar – I fell much better.
The thing is, once sugar (which is in all these stroller minibar items) has excited children’s taste buds, everything will taste like old shoe leather to them, especially vegetables. And because they don’t understand what sugar does to their cute little brains, they want a taste explosion every time they eat. And that experience is in danger when they discover an unidentified object called flax in an unappetizing brownish color floating in your cereal bowl that is supposed to represent rainbow land in a lake of chocolate milk. Now it’s on you to meet the child’s expectations of rainbow land every time you put something eatable in front of him or her. And this is where we start treating vegetables and other healthier food items like the drunken uncle that needs to be hidden from your children.
Do we foster the image that vegetables need hiding?
I mean think of your self. You appreciate honesty. You trust your server that she will bring you the beef burger you ordered and not a tofu burger because she thinks it’s healthier for you. I think kids appreciate honesty too. If we teach them that vegetables are only eatable when they are covered under a layer of cheese or shredded into a sauce, they will treat vegetables as a not worthy food group. And if they feel that adults are in distress when it comes to feeding children vegetables, they will get suspicious and think that something must be wrong with these vegetables. Remember, we are their role models.
Then next thing we do is stop hiding vegetables and act like a spin doctor. We tell them that they have to eat their vegetables period and then we bribe them or punish them. This is when kids start hating vegetables.
Do we promote the belief that eating vegetables is worth a reward and if not eaten kids will get punished?
If kids need an incentive to eat vegetables, they will treat eating vegetables like a visit to the dentist. Like something that has to be done but at least you get a toy afterwards for not crying.
The question I now have is, what if we simply change our adult mindset and start treating vegetables as what they are? A healthy non-negotiable part of every ones diet! We are so resilient when it comes down to teaching our kids the multiplication table or how to hit the soccer ball right. We send them to piano lessons and after school remedial courses. We tell them, that they have to learn this and that in order to succeed in today’s demanding world. But we seem to neglect to teach them the crucial fundamentals of health and happiness; the basics of nutrition and that vegetables are a crucial and not an optional part of a balanced diet.
So what if we try too hard to get vegetables into these adorable 2-foot longs? What if we are approaching it all wrong? What if our “vegetables-are-a-problem” thinking and the tiptoeing around vegetables, causes the “kids-won’t-eat-vegetables” problem in the first place?
I think there can only be one solution to this problem; kids have to learn what healthy eating looks, feels and tastes like. No hiding, no rewards. We as adults have a responsibility to guide our children and be role models. How can we expect them to live a happy and successful life, if we forget to teach them how to take care of themselves with nutrition? I’m not saying that kids can never eat sweets again but they have to learn to distinguish between “treats” and “real food”.
What if kids simply grow up with the belief, eating vegetables is what kids do?
What if parents make eating vegetables fun?
Thank you Sophia and Kostas for this great featured image. You two are the best role models ever! Eating vegetables can be fun. You two are proof of that. Kostas is an photographer based in Munich.
Anyway, I’m on a journey now and will explore more ways of what grownups can do to make their children love Kohlrabi. Help us out and leave discoveries, lessons learnt or experiences you’ve had in the comment section below.
In the case of Kohlrabi: Yes, I know. I might have oversold Kohlrabi here a little bit. Kohlrabi is not exactly known for its burst of instant energy after eating it (only 27 cal. per 100g). But its richness in vitamins and good levels of minerals will support every child in running faster later in life. Kohlrabi is also mildly sweet and can be juicy like an apple when eaten raw. Now you can make up your own funny Kohlrabi story that will raise your child’s curiosity about this odd looking vegetable.How I got a 4-year old kid eating Kohlrabi without a bribe by Tanja Knapp