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“Jason usually finishes his food. This is unlike him,” Jason’s dad explained to the babysitter Jess over the phone.
Jess had just attempted to serve Jason Brussels sprouts, and he was not interested. “That smells stinky,” Jason said as he pushed the Brussels sprouts almost off his plate.
“Jason, your dad won’t be happy if you don’t at least take a tiny taste,” she replied.
This upset Jason even more. Jess was not prepared to handle the situation, so she called his parents for further guidance.
Neither Jason’s dad nor Jess had realized that Jason was slowly becoming a picky eater.
Feeding kids can be tricky, especially when a child may have tried a food before and is now deciding they don’t like it. Overcoming picky eating is a long-term process and we are here to help. Here’s our manual to help you teach kids to eat Brussels sprouts. You will learn:
- The benefits of Brussels sprouts for kids
- How to serve Brussels sprouts to picky eaters
- How to talk about Brussels sprouts to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what Brussels sprouts do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater get more comfortable with Brussels sprouts
The Benefits of Brussels Sprouts for Kids
Are Brussels sprouts a good food for kids? Yes. Brussels sprouts can support kids’ development. One reason is the folate content. Folate supports brain development.
Brussels sprouts also help the promotion of healthy gut bacteria and gastrointestinal (stomach) wellbeing with its fiber content. Healthy gut bacteria are necessary to regulate bad bacteria that can cause stomach issues.
Knowing the benefits of Brussels sprouts for kids, it is understandable that Jess and Jason’s dad would want Jason to eat them.
How to Serve Brussels Sprouts to Kids and Picky Eaters
Changing up the way you serve foods may encourage picky eaters to try them. If you’ve served steamed Brussels sprouts to your selective child, next time try serving them roasted or blanched. They can be eaten raw, but in that case they are often shredded and served in thin strips for a salad, like cabbage prepared for coleslaw.
Another thing to keep in mind when serving new foods to picky eaters is to serve micro portions. Micro portions are small, pea-sized servings of food that may be less intimidating for a selective eater than adult-sized portions. Bonus? Micro portions help reduce food waste. For an extremely picky eater, you may try serving a quartered Brussels sprout, or even a single shaved strip of a raw sprout.
Lastly, when you are serving any food to a child, we recommend you do not place pressure on the child to eat. For example, consider Jess and Jason’s situation when Jess urged Jason to “at least take a tiny taste” of the Brussels sprouts. She was pressuring Jason to eat food that he was not ready to eat.
It is important to realize that Brussels sprouts, like many other foods and vegetables, come in a variety of textures. Sometimes the way a food is prepared can have a negative effect on how the food feels in a child’s mouth and that may be why they refuse to eat it. Eating is a specialized process that can change each time you eat, even when the food is the same. Inconsistencies such as this can cause problems with any child, especially a picky eater.
Don’t be discouraged if your child tries Brussels sprouts on one occasion but refuses them the next time. Continue serving!
There are a lot of ways a grown-up can pressure a child to eat. Here are a few examples:
“You used to like it. Just give it another try. I promise it’s good!”
“Eat what is on your plate or we won’t play outside today.”
“Look, it’s easy! You just open your mouth, chew and swallow. Now you try.”
Removing pressure can be a good way to get kids to eat Brussels sprouts at their own pace.
How to Talk About Brussels Sprouts to Help Your Kid Try Them
Introducing a new food, like Brussels sprouts, to your child can be challenging.
You may have heard your own child say, “That smells stinky.” Using negative words can cause picky kids to remain picky. It can be hard for them to imagine liking a new food when they say negative things about it.
Introducing neutral words will be key to helping fussy eaters learn to like Brussels sprouts. When talking about a new food, use descriptive words that relate to the qualities of the food, rather than your feelings towards the food.
Speaking objectively about a food will not make your child eat Brussels sprouts right away. However, it is an important part of our strategy to reverse picky eating in kids.
Remaining neutral about a particular food can be difficult to do, but it is important to try to refer to foods using their characteristics and not with adjectives such as “good” or “bad.”
Here are neutral words you can use to talk objectively about Brussels sprouts:
- Big smell
- Medium sound
In Jason’s situation, Jess could have tried saying, “Brussels sprouts are very fragrant,” to describe them to Jason.
How to Help Your Child Understand What Brussels Sprouts Do in Their Bodies
How we approach talking about food with kids can have an impact on their willingness to try new foods. It won’t be easy to convince a fussy eater like Jason that he should eat Brussels sprouts just because they are “good for you.” Instead, talk about what the food does in your child’s body.
We want to strive to share facts and information about food. We also want to help our kids make the connection that food does stuff in their bodies.
Here are some phrases you can use when talking to picky eaters about Brussels sprouts. Feel free to come up with some of your own!
Age 0-3: Green foods like Brussels sprouts help our brains get smarter.
Age 3-5: Brussels sprouts help your brain grow and learn in school.
Age 6-11: Brussels sprouts have folate which helps with brain development and keeping your brain strong.
Age 12-18: Brussels sprouts support brain development because they have a nutrient called folate. Folate is used in our bodies to help with making DNA.
Brussels Sprouts Food Activity
Food play is a powerful tool to help kids learn to try new foods. A child may go back and forth between wanting to touch, see or smell a food, and not wanting to be anywhere near it.
Food activities are meant to desensitize the body’s sensory system to new experiences. Desensitizing means the child becomes familiar with the new food. In this case, the “new experience” is Brussels sprouts. Remember, an experience can seem new even when the food is the same.
Food activities are meant to assist in the process and allow for foods to become less of a shock to the sensory system of a child. These activities can be as simple as reading about a food. They can also be as complex as observing and touching the food, say in a grocery store during shopping.
Remember that changing the way you talk about food may not have an immediate positive outcome; the same can be said about introducing food activities. Overcoming picky eating is a continual process that can take some time.
When it comes to food play, you want to choose an activity that is age-appropriate and is in line with how comfortable your child is with the food. Below is an example of a food activity with Brussels sprouts. If you would like more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
You and your child are going to create an illustrated book together and read it with each other after the book is complete. Be sure to mention that this food activity is for having fun together. If your child is feeling apprehensive, reassure them that there is no pressure for them to play if they do not want to.
Create, Read and Learn
- Construction paper
- Picture art (if available/needed)
- Start by coming up with a Brussels sprouts character. (Bruce the Brussels Sprout, for example.)
- Create a story about the character and write it in the book for your child (or have them write it).
- Have your child draw the Brussels sprouts character and any other foods they would like.
- Fold the construction paper pages together and staple the spine to create a book
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.
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
“Brussels Sprouts.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, July 6, 2021. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/Brussels-sprouts.
“Folate (Folic Acid) – Vitamin B9.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, July 2, 2019. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/folic-acid.
Link, Rachael. “10 Ways Brussels Sprouts Benefit Your Health.” Healthline, September 8, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-brussels-sprouts.
Nijhoff, Wim A., Marina J.A.L. Grubben, Fokko M. Nagengast, Jan B.M.J. Jansen, Hans Verhagen, Geert vanPoppel, and Wilbert H.M. Peters. “Effects of Consumption of Brussels Sprouts on Intestinal and Lymphocytic Glutathione S-TRANSFERASES in Humans.” Carcinogenesis 16, no. 9 (September 1995): 2125–28. https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/16.9.2125.