Kids, Books and Vegetables, Oh My!

by On August 12, 2013 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

I found myself getting cranky reading about a?recent Stanford study which found that young children (ages 4-5) voluntarily ate more vegetables after teachers read them specially created nutrition books. tomato girl garden morguefile copyThe books avoided vegetable lectures and, instead, taught cool facts about healthy eating, digestion, and food groups. Compared to a control group, the test kids had greater willingness to dig into their veggies at snack time.

You’re probably thinking “why get mad at the vegetable-book study?”

It’s because at our house, we’ve read every book I could find to inspire vegetable-love in my vegetable-hating kid. We’ve read kids’ books about farms, plants, gardening, nutrition, the body, and kids’ cooking. She loved the books, but didn’t budge.

Yes, I sneak vegetables into other foods, but I also try non-sneaky, pro-vegetable efforts like:

  • Having her help select produce at the store
  • Creating/maintaining a vegetable garden
  • Visiting farms and farmers’ markets
  • Cooking fun, healthy meals together (she picked the vegetables off her pizza)

The good news? My daughter shows interest in selecting, growing and cooking vegetables.

The bad news? At meal time, all we hear is this defensive protest: “But I DO eat raw carrots, lettuce and the trunks of broccoli trees. The rest is gross!”

The Stanford vegetable-book study showed kids making healthier school snack choices, yet they admit that “More research is needed to find out whether the gains in healthy eating would translate to other mealtimes, including at home.”

Image credit: anitapeppers,

Image credit: anitapeppers,

Wah-wah-wah! Welcome to my battlefield.

I am reminded of the popular children’s book, Pinkalicious (which my daughter adores). The book’s heroine is a little girl so obsessed with eating pink cupcakes that she turns pink herself (fun at first, then not so fun). The antidote? Eating all the green foods in the fridge, depicted as disgusting but healthy, to restore her normal skin tone.

Grownups may think the book’s moral is: “You can eat yummy sweets of all colors in moderation, but don’t forget your greens and other vegetables.” But for my kid, the moral is: “sweets=good, vegetables=gross.”

Sigh. I need a treat.



Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.


  1. Ken

    August 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I’m lucky, because my three year old son sometimes enjoys munching on carrots, Persian cucumbers, bell peppers, and even raw zucchini. He eats up his broccoli “trees” fairly often. Of course, I said “sometimes.” Given the choice, he’d subsist solely on quesadillas and “canola” (granola) and milk.

    Your mention of Pinkalicious resonated with me. My boy really likes that book, and for the most part, so do I. But I detest that page, where all the green, healthy things are yucky and she essentially forces them down her own throat. That’s not a concept I really wanted to see promoted in one of my son’s favorite books. Sure, it can be dismissed as humor, but kids are paying attention to those messages. I think it’s a bit irresponsible of the author.

    • Diana

      August 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Ken, you lucky dog — persian cucumbers? Your kid is not just eating his veggies, he’s doing it upscale! Thanks for noting that he’d subsist on carbs/cereal/milk if given a choice! Also interesting to hear our similar take on the “green message” in Pinkalicious. I thought I was just being prickly on this one!