Is It Safe For Kids To Eat Raw Vegetables?
Are you worried that the vegetables you give your child are laden with pesticides? In this article we tell you how to avoid the risks and give your little one the goodness of raw veggies.
By Priya Kathpal
Eating raw vegetables is extremely healthy, even for young children. They make easy, convenient and nutritious snacks.
However, there have been worrying reports in the media about the harmful effects of pesticides and chemical sprays used during cultivation. Because of such concerns, are you wondering if raw vegetables are really good for your child?
If so, the answer is, yes, they’re good, provided you take some simple precautions.
How dangerous is pesticide residue in food?
Rampant use of pesticides in agriculture is no doubt a real and growing threat to health. More so for children. As the digestive systems of young children are not fully developed, pesticides may do more harm to babies than to adults. In extreme cases, these chemicals can even stunt the growth and development of a child.
However, the fear of pesticides need not prevent you from giving your child raw vegetables. According to a 2012 report titled, ‘Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages’, by Joel Forman and Janet Silverstein, and published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the potential risk from pesticides in fruits and vegetables is much lower than the damage that can be done by denying young children the benefits of raw vegetables. The AAP stresses that the most important thing for children is to eat a wide variety of produce, be it conventional or organic.
Besides, the Government and various NGOs are trying hard to educate farmers about the need to reduce pesticide use. While we wait for these efforts to take effect, let us see how to make raw vegetables safe for our children.
Also read: 4 Consequences Of A Poor Diet In Toddlers
Here are a few steps you can take:
- Wash fresh vegetables thoroughly with cold water or warm water.
- The Centre for Science and Environment in India says that if we wash vegetables in a 2 per cent salt solution, it will remove pesticide residue from the surface of the vegetables.
- Take extra care while washing vegetables like tomatoes as traces of pesticides could remain in their crevices.
- As a matter of precaution, it is best to soak raw vegetables in water mixed with a little vinegar. Keep for 10 minutes and rinse thoroughly. This will make the veggies safe for your baby!
- Blanching vegetables to remove their peels is a good way to see that young children are protected from any pesticide residue that could be present on the outer surface of the produce.
What’s the right way to serve raw veggies?
While raw vegetables cleansed of chemicals are very healthy for children, the right type of vegetables must be given at the right time and in the right form. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- You can introduce your baby to raw vegetables when she’s as young as nine or ten months. But remember, she may not be able to chew or swallow properly yet. So give the raw vegetables to her in grated form, rather than as sticks or chunks. She may choke on those.
- By the time your baby is a toddler or preschooler, he will be better able to chew. This is the time to encourage him to have raw vegetables and fruits. But remember that his appetite will be tiny. So offering these as a snack will be better than giving it to him at mealtime.
- Not all vegetables can be given raw to young children. Beets, bottle gourd and mushrooms are hard to digest in the raw form. Spinach is another vegetable that isn’t safe to eat raw. All these may contain germs that don’t get washed away easily. It’s best to cook or steam them to make them safe for your child. Some vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli cause gas if consumed raw. So it’s advisable to cook them for children. Green peas, beans and corn also taste good steamed, with little or no seasoning.
Here are some toddler-friendly raw vegetables:
- Carrot and cucumber sticks
- Sliced tomatoes
- Red and yellow bell peppers strips
- Little chunks of avocado
- Celery sticks
- Cherry tomatoes
How can a taste for raw veggies be cultivated in children?
Get your child to understand the importance of vegetables by involving him when you go shopping. Discuss the different benefits that different coloured vegetables offer. Encourage him to help you clean and store the vegetables.
Not all children take easily to eating raw vegetables. But you can get over this problem by making an effort to present them in an attractive and fun way.
Here are some ideas:
- Use cookie cutters to cut vegetables in interesting shapes. You can have cucumber stars and carrot flowers, for instance.
- Try whipping up smoothies with raw vegetables and fruits. These will give your child a taste of the vegetables, and encourage her to try them plain.
- Serve carrot, celery and cucumber sticks with a yogurt dip.
To sum up, most raw vegetables and fruits have a lot of health benefits, and you don’t need to deny your child these benefits because you fear that the pesticides they may contain could harm them. You can get rid of the residue of harmful chemicals by following some simple steps.
So, make raw vegetables, in the form of salad and snacks, a part of everyday diet, for both you and your child. Once it becomes a routine, it will be a lifelong habit.
The author is a nutritionist and founder of Nutrify.
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