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. Let's see how to make raw vegetables safe for our children.
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 two percent 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 them to him at mealtime.
Not all vegetables can be given raw to young children. Vegetables like beets, green peas, beans and corn should not be offered raw to children. As they could be choking hazard and these veggies taste good only when cooked. Green leafy veggies like spinach are another one 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.
Here are some toddler-friendly raw vegetables:
Red and yellow bell peppers strips
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 colored vegetables offer. Encourage him to help you clean and store the vegetables.
Not all children prefer 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 into 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 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. Instead, get rid of the residue of harmful chemicals by following the simple steps mentioned above.
So, make raw vegetables, in the form of salad and snacks, a part of the everyday diet, for both you and your child. Once it becomes a routine, it will be a lifelong habit.