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How to Help Your Child Learn to Eat Rutabaga

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“Kendra! Honey, bring those rutabagas I just pulled over to me please,” her aunt shouted from across the backyard. 

Kendra’s aunt has a beautiful home garden filled with lots of plants and vegetables. Kendra’s aunt loves to cook and share the vegetables she grows with her friends and family. Kendra is not familiar with all the vegetables her aunt grows, like rutabaga. Before she goes to her aunt’s house, she usually fills up on waffles because she knows her aunt doesn’t usually make food she likes.

Kendra, dragging her feet, brought the rutabagas to her aunt and quickly turned to go back and play. 

“Wait, wait, wait! I want you to taste some! I love raw rutabaga,” Kendra’s aunt said with excitement.

“It looks funny,” Kendra replied.

“Come on, Kenny, you have to try the rutabaga,” her aunt said more forcefully. 

Crunch. Kendra’s nose scrunched up as she bit into the raw rutabaga. She spit it out immediately. 

Getting a picky child to eat and try new foods is a challenging task. It often seems like they are adding more foods to their do-not-eat lists every day. Picky eating is difficult to reverse and it can be a long process. We are here to help you! Here is our guide to help you teach your child to eat rutabaga. In this guide, you will learn:

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

The Benefits of Rutabaga for Kids

Rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. Rutabaga is also known as a swede. It has a high amount of vitamin C, which can help prevent and repair damaged cells. Rutabaga also contains potassium, which plays a role in normal kidney function, as well as muscle function. Rutabaga also has other nutrients, like fiber to bulk up stool and prevent constipation, as well as vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage to cells.

Kendra’s aunt grew up eating garden vegetables like rutabaga. She loves Kendra so much and wants to share her love and the benefits of rutabaga with her.

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

How to Serve Rutabaga to Picky Eaters 

When serving a new food, like rutabaga, to your picky eater, it is best not to pressure them. Pressuring kids, especially picky eaters, can actually reduce the likelihood of them trying the new food. Kendra’s aunt tried to get her to try and taste the rutabaga, but she refused. 

It’s easy to pressure kids without even knowing. Here are some examples of what pressure can look like:

“Yesterday we tried the carrots and you liked those. So be a big girl and try the rutabaga.”

“You used to love trying new foods, Kendra! Just have one bite.”

“Come on, I know you don’t want to try it, but trust me, it’s good for you!”

Removing the pressure from snack or mealtime helps a picky eater explore new flavors at their own pace. 

In addition to removing pressure at mealtime, we also recommend serving rutabaga in micro portions. Micro portions are small, pea-like servings of new foods that can be given to your child. Since micro portions are so tiny (only a taste!), picky eaters will feel less pressure than if they received a normal portion of a food – which can be overwhelming. 

Rutabaga can be cooked in multiple ways, so if your child is not interested in raw or steamed rutabaga, try it roasted or mashed like potatoes. Varying the way you serve it can help get kids to eat rutabaga.

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

How to Talk About Rutabagas to Help Your Child Try Them

The way we talk about new foods has a real effect on picky eaters. We want them to eat food that will be delicious and nourishing, but picky eaters will only see a funny-looking rutabaga. We can change their perception and their willingness to try new foods, just by the way we talk about them.

Does your child say things like, ‘that’s disgusting,” ”that tastes worse than dirt,” or “yuck,” when talking about rutabaga or other foods? This negative talk is characteristic of picky kids. Negative words and phrases reinforce their selective attitudes about food. To help kids learn to try and like new foods like rutabaga, you have to teach them new words and phrases to use. 

We don’t want to use negative words that feed into the picky eating behaviors. We also don’t want to use positive words that can make them feel pressured to try the food. 

We want to use neutral language. Neutral language is more for learning about and understanding the food. Neutral words give us the ability to talk about the rutabaga and allow a picky eater to taste it when they are ready. 

Here are some neutral words you can use to model describing rutabaga for your child: 

  • Brownish-yellow or purple outside
  • White or yellow inside
  • Pungent or big smell
  • Earthy
  • Slightly sweet
  • Buttery
  • Circular
  • Round
  • Rough
  • Big flavor

Kendra’s aunt can say, “Kendra, look, you brought me a rutabaga with multiple colors, a brown, yellow and purple mix!” 

How to Help Your Child Understand What Rutabagas Do in Their Bodies 

Think back to a time you may have said, “Try this food. It’s good for you.” Now think about your child’s reaction. They probably didn’t beg you for more after you told them how “good” it was. 

We can share bits of information that teach kids what rutabaga does in their bodies. This way, they learn about it and make new connections that can help shift how they feel. While it probably won’t change your child’s mind overnight, we know it will make a difference in getting them to eat the vegetable. 

Here are some age-appropriate facts you can share with your fussy eaters about rutabaga:

Age 0-3: Rutabaga helps us not to get sick.

Age 3-5: Yellow foods like rutabaga help your body fight off colds because they have something called vitamin C in them. 

Age 6-11: The vitamin C in rutabaga helps our bodies fight off colds because it attacks harmful bacteria.

Age 12-18: Rutabaga gives us lots of vitamin C. When our cells experience damage from harmful bacteria, vitamin C can attack the bacteria and repair cell damage and keep us healthy. 

Rutabaga Food Activity

Food play can be a fun and engaging way to get your child to interact with a new food. Food play can include many activities that involve looking, touching, smelling, and eventually tasting a new food. Food play is crucial for selective kids because when presented with a new food they may feel uncomfortable and even become frightened. This can activate the child’s flight, fight, or freeze response.

Giving kids like Kendra some time and space to get used to a new food helps them not feel so scared. Instead they have time to become desensitized. This just means they are more used to the food and feel more comfortable around it. Then, when the child is used to the food, they can learn to try it and eventually even like it. 

We have a fun food play activity to get your child to engage with rutabaga and help them on their journey to learn to like it. You and your child are going to make Rutabaga Ribbons. 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.

Rutabaga Ribbons

Age: 3+

Materials

  • Rutabaga, washed and dried
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Plate
  • Paper 
  • Crayons, markers or colored pencils
  • Clear plastic paper protector, optional

Steps

  1. Draw and color a character with an outfit on paper using crayons, markers or colored pencils.
  2. Peel skin from washed and dried rutabaga.
  3. Continue to peel rutabaga making ribbons.
  4. Use rutabaga ribbons to decorate the characters outfit or other part of the drawing.
  5. Ribbons can also be used to add to a salad, can be made into twists and shapes, or be used to decorate other drawings.

Note: Cooked rutabaga can be used. To do so, peel the rutabaga and steam until soft. Pat dry and continue with food play instructions. To ensure the paper does not get wet and soggy, place the drawing inside a clear plastic paper protector. 

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

Lauryn Woodruff

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

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Lauryn Woodruff

Lauryn Woodruff is the Nutrition Information Specialist at Kids Eat in Color. She creates content that provides helpful nutrition information for picky eaters. Lauryn has a BS in Nutrition and Food Science and is completing her Dietetic Internship at Virginia Tech University. She enjoys cooking, trying new foods, and being outdoors!

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