Somewhere along the line, recently, my son started liking carrots again. After what seems a couple years of unhealthy eating, he’s returned to form and can’t get enough of the good stuff.

When he started on solid food, he ate what we ate, puréed. Not only did we save money, but we knew exactly what he was getting. At the time we were in California, and we had a huge vegetable garden with every variety of squash you could name. He loved them all. And broccoli and peas and if we let him live on bananas he would have quite happily. I was amazed. To my wife’s chagrin, I keep to a strict diet of meat and beer and coffee, and I thought for sure he’d follow my tastes. Suffice to say, we were pleased.

Then one day it ended. Just like that. It might be that he got his first taste of sugary biscuits. It might have been after our first outing to a supermarket, overwhelmed with colourful fun marketed cartoon treats in one aisle, and boring old dirty potatoes in another. Or maybe he just had a change of heart – kids are such fickle critters after all. It’s been chicken and nut bars and the occasional potato chip since I can remember.

Then one day at the park, I took a chance and handed him an apple. He studied it skeptically, then took a bite and it was like magic. Crunch! I think he liked the sound, and I played up how amused I was every time he took another mouthful. Can you imagine my surprise when he started asking for apples? Why yes, you certainly can have another!

Brimming with confidence, we pushed forward. One night with chicken dinner, we snuck in a broccoli spear, and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Didn’t he bite the tree off the trunk and say “mmmmm.”

Now, we get this food box full of veggies delivered to our door every week, and there’s always carrots. Alright, let’s try this. Let’s get him back on the orange sticks. Every night I’d add a couple to his bowl, with a healthy squirt of ketchup to dress them up, and once again, he went for the crunching fun. He’s up to nearly a whole carrot every night.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I know I’m not the only parent who’s had trouble with vegetables. My friends, there’s hope. I say, make it fun, make a game of it, dress the veggies up so they’re cooler than Twinkies and Pringles.

Perhaps you notice I didn’t say that I pitched rewards – junk food in trade for good old fashioned ground-grown comestibles. We tried that and he ended up with more marshmallows than squash. So I advise against food as a bargaining chip.

I think the trouble with vegetables is that they don’t seem like fun, compared to the marketing rainbow arching down the chip and biscuit aisle. I think it’s up to us to get vegetables to compete in their natural packaging. Give it a try, and maybe you too won’t have any more trouble with vegetables.

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Brian Sorrell has worked as a cook, typist, computer programmer, woodworker, bicycle repairman, and university lecturer, all of which inadequately prepared him for his current full-time role as Dad. In February 2012, the family packed up their house in California and relocated to Auckland, where he now specialises in chasing his always-on-the-run son, drinking coffee, and recording his adventures at Dadding Full Time

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