So, here’s how the conversation went with my kids:
Me: “Hey, want some sugar…”
Them (interrupting me before I can finish): “YES! YES!”
Me: “…snap peas.”
Them: “Ugh. No thanks.”
If you have kids, you probably relate. It’s hard to get kids as excited about vegetables as they are about sugar. But I’m a fan of Star Wars and I’ve got a few Jedi Mind Tricks up my sleeve.
Trick #1: If you follow me, you know that I have use a simple, homemade, kid-friendly snack box (pictured) that I bring for the kids when we go on outings. Kids love little, variety packs of nicely packaged stuff (as the food marketers have figured out). My boxes don’t have cartoon characters on them, but my kids love them. They get excited to discover the little “treats” that await them.
When referring to the the foods in the box, I call them “treats” or “snacks”. Kids really respond to those words and may not be aware that other kids think of treats and snacks as Oreo cookies or Goldfish crackers. I include colorful foods (thanks to nature we don’t need anything artificial to make that happen) and variety. The pack in the picture includes a peanut & chocolate chip trail mix, baked seaweed (from Trader Joe’s), tangerines and dehydrated strawberries (from TJs). I often include things like boiled eggs, cheese sticks, apple slices, carrot sticks, etc.
It’s important that kids keep a positive association with the snack box. So, I only introduce a new food into it when they have accepted it at home. Recently, I wanted to introduce sugar snaps peas. So, I filled a snack box with the peas, the very same ones they rejected the day before, and sat down beside them. I joined them in their game while happily munching away on the peas.
When they spotted the snack box, Pavlovian associations to “treats” fired in their sweet, little heads. I had their attention. My son immediately asked if he could have some. My daughter just grabbed a few. Before I knew it, the three of us had devoured an entire snack box of vegetables. And my children had made positive neuro-connections to sugar snap peas.
This trick is responsible for creating positive associations to mung bean sprouts, spinach and lots of other nutrient-rich vegetables. Once the positive association has been made, I have the all-clear. Within a few days I will include sugar snap peas in their snack boxes. Chances are they will embrace them as if they were just sugar. Wa la!
Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem.
Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.