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Emma’s mother was so happy when Emma began to eat solids. Her mother wanted to share her love of green peas with Emma. To her mother’s delight, as an infant, Emma enjoyed green peas. Then Emma turned two, and everything changed. All of a sudden, Emma barely touched them on her plate, and soon, she refused to take a single bite. Emma’s mother began to say things like, “If you don’t eat your green peas, you can’t eat dessert.” Emma refused and called green peas “gross.” Her mother began to worry that Emma would stop eating other foods too.
We know that feeding kids can be tricky. We know you want to feed your child a variety of foods (including the ones you love!), so their bodies can get the different types of nutrients they need.
We know introducing different foods can be challenging. Reversing picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you do that! Here’s our guide to help you teach your child to eat green peas (maybe for the second time!).
- How to serve green peas to picky eaters
- The benefits of green peas for kids
- How to talk about green peas to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what green peas do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with green peas
How to Serve Green Peas to Picky Eaters
Emma will need to come in contact with green peas many times before she decides to eat them again. With kids like Emma, we recommend that parents avoid using pressure during mealtimes to get them to eat green peas and other vegetables. Pressuring kids, especially picky eaters, often backfires and the child may become more selective. Here are some examples of what using pressure during meals and snacks may look like:
“You have to clean your plate.”
“Take three bites, and then you can be excused.”
Instead, multiple exposures to green peas, without pressure, can help picky eaters learn to like new foods when they are comfortable.
The Benefits of Green Peas for Kids
Green peas are part of the legume family, along with many types of beans. They are a good source of protein and fiber. Protein helps kids grow, and fiber aids in digestion and is helpful when dealing with diarrhea and constipation. Green peas also contain vitamin A, which helps protect your little one’s eyes.
Green peas are also a good source of vitamins C, B1, folate, iron and phosphorus.
It’s no wonder Emma’s parents want her to eat green peas!
How to Talk About Green Peas to Help Your Child Try Them
Picky eaters like Emma often talk negatively about food. Emma thought green peas were “gross.” Emma’s mom can use neutral words to talk about green peas objectively. Neutral words are neither positive nor negative and can help kids learn about green peas.
Here are neutral words you can use to describe green peas to your child:
- Big flavor
Emma may not want to try green peas now but, this is a good tool to help her like them in the future. “Green peas are a round vegetable.” “Green peas are sweet.”
How to Teach Your Child What Green Peas Do in Their Body
Trying new foods can be stressful for your child. Emma was pressured to try green peas and didn’t eat any of her dinner. Instead, Emma’s mother can try talking about what food does in the body.
Sharing facts and information with your child can help them connect the food to how it helps their body. This is another strategy to help your child consider trying new foods.
Here are some ways to share information about green peas:
Age 0-3: Green foods like green peas help fight off sickness.
Age 3-5: Green peas have something called fiber that helps your body poop/go to the restroom.
Age: 6-11: The fiber in green peas is also in other vegetables. It helps feed the good bacteria in your gut and removes waste products from your digestive tract through your poop.
Age 12-18: There are different types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Green peas have both types. When we digest peas, the soluble fiber feeds the good gut bacteria, and the insoluble fiber helps remove waste products from our bodies.
Green Peas Food Play Activity
Kids who are picky eaters are at different stages of learning to like foods. They may need to touch, look, smell, and taste new foods before they learn to like them. Food play activities are a low-pressure way to help picky eaters because they become more comfortable with the food.
Food activities do not have to be complicated, but they can be fun! Using food activities can be a process. Emma, for example, may have to go through multiple stages of being exposed to green peas that include touching, looking, and smelling before she is ready to taste them.
Here is just one example of a green pea activity. If you need more ideas of food activities, or activities by age and learning stage, you may find our food activities guide helpful: Food Play Every Day.
You and your child are going to make shapes and letters using green peas. If your child is feeling nervous, they don’t have to do it. You can model the activity for them. While playing with your child, talk about the food using the objective words listed above (green, sweet, firm, etc). Also, help your child make connections with other objects they know: peas are green like your shirt; they are round like a ball; when you squish them they pop like bubbles, etc.
Green Pea Shapes
Age: 2+ years (modifiable based on child’s interest)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1-2 Tbs. water
- A microwave-safe container
- Prepare the peas. In a microwave safe container, combine frozen peas and water. Place in the microwave and cook for 2 minutes.
- Once done, carefully remove from the microwave. (There may be steam which will be very hot). Drain the leftover liquid, let cool and pat dry.
- Together with your child, decide what shape, letter or word to construct using the green peas. Make shapes such as hearts, squares and triangles. You can spell out a name too.
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