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How to Help Your Child Learn to Eat Asparagus

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Tyler’s parents love grilling and eating asparagus. When deciding what to serve for dinner one night, Tyler’s parents expected asparagus to be a big hit. Without even taking a bite, Tyler threw the biggest tantrum they had ever seen. “It looks so gross!” Tyler screamed while pushing the asparagus off of his plate. Tyler’s parents wanted to stand their ground, so they told him, “Eat it! You are not getting anything else for the rest of the night!” Tyler did not like this response and refused to eat any of his food.

We know that feeding kids can be tricky and we want to help you end these food battles. Reversing picky eating is a long term process, and we’re here to help you do it! Follow along and learn how to teach your kid to eat asparagus. In this guide, you’ll learn: 

Related: Join BetterBites – the best selling course for the families of picky eaters

How to Serve Asparagus to Picky Eaters

Children may need several exposures to asparagus, including seeing it, smelling it or touching it, to become more familiar. We recommend parents avoid putting pressure on their kids to eat food they don’t want to. Instead, there are many different ways to use asparagus to promote positive associations. Tyler had no prior exposure to asparagus when it was served and, therefore, hesitated. Once he felt pressured to eat the new food, he became more stubborn and refused to try it. 

There are many ways a child might feel pressured to eat. Here are a few examples:

“Please, please just try some of it.”

“It is not that bad, just take a bite.”

“If you take a bite, I will give you dessert later.”

Removing pressure from mealtimes can help your child learn to like a new food at a pace they are comfortable with.

In addition to avoiding pressure, you may also want to introduce new foods to your fussy eater in micro portions. Micro portions are small amounts of food (think pea-sized) that are less intimidating for children than regular-sized portions. (Another benefit of micro portions? They help limit food waste!) In the case of asparagus, you could offer your picky kid a small chopped piece instead of a whole asparagus spear.

Finally, you want to serve new foods in different ways. If a selective child like Tyler didn’t want to try grilled asparagus, his parents could try baking or sautéing it the next time they served it. Tyler’s parents could also serve asparagus as part of a salad or pilaf, and offer Tyler a deconstructed version to make him feel more comfortable.

Related: Get our picky eater guide – From Stress to Success: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Eat Better without Losing Your Mind

The Benefits of Asparagus for Kids

Asparagus offers a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Asparagus contains antioxidants that assist in many different functions within the body.

Asparagus is:

  • High in folate, which is important for cell growth and function
  • A good source of vitamin C
  • High in vitamin A, which supports immune system functionality
  • High in vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone metabolism

Related: Need recipes with asparagus? Real Easy Weekdays: The Meal Plan for Busy Families

How to Talk About Asparagus to Help Your Child Try It

Picky children often use negative language when talking about food. “That is awful!” In Tyler’s case, he screamed, “That looks gross!” Negative language reinforces their pickiness.

Remaining neutral about a particular food can be hard, but it is important that you try to describe foods with their characteristics and not by adjectives such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. 

Talking objectively about food will not automatically make a child try new foods. But it is a key part of our strategy to help you teach your child to eat asparagus in the long run.

Here are some neutral words you can use to talk about asparagus:

  • Green
  • Tall
  • Long
  • Big smell
  • Tender
  • Soft

Tyler’s parents could have said “Asparagus is long. Asparagus is also green!”

How to Help Your Child Understand What Asparagus Does in Their Body

Introducing a new food, like asparagus, into your child’s diet can be difficult. An important tactic to remember is that when talking about asparagus, allow the child to express their feelings about the food.

Allow time for asparagus to become less new and more familiar before assuming your child will eat it. This can be a stressful time for your child, so having patience and responding to hesitation positively is important as well.

Consider this example, “Tyler, it is okay that you are worried about new foods, we will work together to learn to like asparagus.”

Then, Tyler’s parent’s can start explaining how the food functions in the body. They can share age-appropriate messages that Tyler understands.

Is this going to suddenly make a child want to try new foods? Not exactly. But this is a step in the process of educating and learning about new foods. 

Here are some ways you can talk about asparagus with your child. You can come up with your own as well!

Age 0-3: Green foods like asparagus help fight sickness.

Age 3-5: Asparagus helps strengthen bones.

Age 6-11: The nutrients in asparagus help protect bone development and calcium uptake.

Age 12-18: Calcium plays a really big role in bone health. Asparagus contains calcium, which helps protect us from broken or fractured bones.

Tyler’s parents could have said “Asparagus is green. Green foods help strengthen bones.”

Asparagus Food Activity

Picky eating in children can be a game of patience and repetition. A child may go back and forth between wanting to touch, see or smell a new food, and sometimes they may not want to do any of those things. 

Allowing for a no-pressure approach such as food play can allow for a child to become less fearful of the new food and potentially accept the idea of tasting it somewhere down the line. 

Food play also desensitizes the body’s sensory system. “Desensitize” means that your child’s body becomes used to the food. Then, when your child interacts with the food, it does not seem so scary. 

Food activities do not have to be very complicated or take a lot of preparation. They could be as simple as your child helping with normal food preparation. On the other hand, food activities can be more involved and exciting if you would like them to be.

Here is one example of an asparagus activity for kids. If you need more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning to like new foods, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.

Here is an asparagus activity that Tyler’s parents could do to help get him to eat asparagus.

Play Photographer 

You and your child are going to play photographer with asparagus. Be sure to mention that this food activity is for having fun together. If your child is feeling apprehensive, reassure your child that there is no pressure for them to play if they do not want to.

Materials

  • Asparagus
  • Phone/camera
  • A clean surface such as a plate or cutting board
  • Props

Steps

1.   Wash and trim asparagus.

2.   Take pictures of asparagus with props. Add filters if you’d like.

Note: If you are using the food for play, be sure to discard afterwards if it is no longer safe to eat.

For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!

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. 

Author

Shemar Hawkins

Reviewers

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

References

Castaneda, Ruben. “Health Benefits of Asparagus.” U.S. News & World Report, March 5, 2020. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/slideshows/health-benefits-of-asparagus.

“Cronometer,” July 19, 2021. https://cronometer.com/#foods.

“Vitamin K: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 29, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminK-HealthProfessional/.

Brazier, Yvette. “Everything You Need to Know About Asparagus.” Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo. Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, December 12, 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270805

“Asparagus.” New World Encyclopedia, June 16, 2019. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/asparagus.

Shemar Hawkins

Shemar O. Hawkins is the Child Nutrition Fellow at Kids Eat in Color. He reads and synthesizes scientific literature and creates research briefs on child nutrition and guides to help parents and caregivers feed their picky eaters. He is currently working on becoming a Registered Dietitian- Nutrition at Texas State University.

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