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Brady’s parents loved to eat arugula. They served it to Brady hoping he would love it as much as they did. Nope. As soon as he tasted it, Brady spit out the arugula, shouting, “It’s spicy!” His parents replied, “You have to eat it!” The next thing you know, the whole family was in a battle over Brady’s refusal to eat the vegetable.
We know that feeding kids can be very tricky and we want to help you end those mealtime food battles. Overcoming picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you through it! Here’s our guide to help you teach your kid to eat arugula (and maybe even like it!). You’ll learn:
- How to serve arugula to picky eaters
- The benefits of arugula for kids
- How to talk about arugula to help your child try it
- How to help your child understand what arugula does in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with arugula
How To Serve Arugula To Picky Eaters
When you’re serving any food to a child, we recommend that you do not pressure the child to eat the food. In Brady’s situation, his parents tried to force him to eat the arugula, but it backfired. Once Brady felt pressured, he refused to eat it.
There are many ways a child might feel pressured to eat, even if their parents or caretakers aren’t purposely trying to pressure them. Here are a few examples of what pressure during meals can look like:
“Take three more bites, then you can have dessert.”
“Great job with that bite, now take another one!”
“You have to eat it, or you won’t read books after dinner.”
Reducing pressure can help your child learn to like a new food at their own pace.
The Benefits of Arugula for Kids
You might be wondering if arugula is good for kids and toddlers. Arugula belongs to the cruciferous family, which includes vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. These nutritious vegetables are known for having many vitamins and minerals. Arugula, for example, contains vitamin K. Vitamin K helps blood clot after a cut, and it supports bone health as kids grow and develop. Arugula also has vitamins A and C, calcium and folate.
With so many minerals and vitamins to offer, it is understandable that Brady’s parents wanted him to eat arugula.
How to Talk About Arugula to Help Your Child Try It
Picky kids often use negative language when they talk about food. “This is disgusting!” “I’m not going to eat that!” “This is not what I wanted.” This negative language reinforces their picky behavior. It makes it harder for them to learn to try a new food.
If you use positive words, a picky eater may think you are trying to get them to eat it. If you use negative words, your fussy eater definitely won’t want to eat it. Neutral words will help your child understand that they may learn to like a food in the future.
Talking about food differently won’t make your child try arugula tomorrow. However, it is an important part of our strategy to get your child to eat arugula at some point in the future.
Here are some words you can use to describe arugula to your selective eater:
- Big flavor
- Small sound
In the future, Brady’s parents could say, “Arugula is peppery. Arugula is also green!”
How To Help Your Child Understand What Arugula Does In Their Body
Making the connection for your child about what a particular food does for their body is very powerful.
We want to share age-appropriate information that your child can understand. Will this alone lead your child to instantly try something new? Probably not at first. This is just another step in your child’s process of learning to try a new food.
Next time you serve arugula, help your child understand what it does in their body. Say things like:
Age 0-3: Green foods help your bones grow.
Age 3-5: Green foods do many things for your body. They help us grow strong bones and they help our bodies heal when we get a cut.
Age 6-11: Arugula has vitamin K, which helps your bones and blood.
Age 12-18: Leafy green veggies, like arugula, have many vitamins and minerals. Vitamin K is found in arugula, and it supports your body maintaining its bone density. It also helps stop bleeding by clotting when we get a cut.
Arugula Play Food Activity
Food play activities can help kids learn to try new foods. When kids look at, touch, smell and eventually taste a new food, they may be learning to like it.
Food activities also desensitize the body’s sensory system. “Desensitize” means that your child’s body becomes more used to the food. That way, when your child interacts with the food, it doesn’t come off SO smelly, SO slimy or SO sour to them. When your child’s body is used to the food, they can learn to taste it. They may also learn to like it.
Food play can be as simple as having your child help prepare food with you. It can also be more fun and exciting if you want to put more time into them.
Arugula activities aren’t going to make kids and toddlers learn to like arugula overnight. This is a process that may take a lot of time. Kids may have to go through many stages of interacting with arugula, including looking at it, smelling it, tasting it, touching it, and more, before they can to learn to like it.
Here is one example of an arugula activity for kids. If you need more activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and their stage of learning, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
Here is an arugula activity that Brady’s parents could do to help him learn to like arugula.
Arugula Leaf Stamps
- Plastic table cloth, optional
- Printer paper or construction paper
- Masking tape
- Washable paint
- Paint pallet (can substitute with foil or plastic container to hold paint for dipping)
- Paint brush
- Arugula leaves
- Cover your table with a tablecloth if necessary.
- Place the paper horizontal on your table. Use the masking tape and tape the paper down on all four sides to make a border. Place a piece of tape down the middle to make two frames.
- Squeeze some of the paint on the paint pallet or paper.
- Place arugula leaf inside the left frame. Hold the leaf down with one hand, and using the opposite hand, paint over the leaf until fully covered. Then, carefully remove the arugula leaf.
- Put the arugula leaf, paint side down, inside the right frame and gently press down making a stamp. Pull the leaf up and let it dry.
- Repeat with other paint colors and leafy greens like spinach, kale and tree leaves. Leaves can also be torn, squished and played with separately or used for stamps too!
Note: This activity may require more help and parental involvement for ages 3-5 and less involvement for ages 6-11. We encourage different levels of activities for different ages. Feel free to be creative and adjust to better fit your family.
Looking for more food play activities, see our Food Play Every Day ebook.
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed