Eight Easy Ways to Get Your Children to Eat Vegetables
By Cathe Olson
There are children who devour plates of crunchy salads and gobble up steamed broccoli like it was candy, but what do you do if your kids refuse to eat anything green?
Children need the vitamins and minerals vegetables provide. Vegetables from the cabbage family are exceptional sources of calcium, vitamins A and C and beta-carotenes, especially kale and collards.
| ||Most kids (and many adults) don’t like the strong taste and texture of these leafy green vegetables. Rather than trying to get your child to eat food she doesn’t like, fix the vegetables in a way that she will enjoy. Don’t load your child’s plate with huge helpings that may be overwhelming. |
Give him a little and let him ask for more. Encourage your child to taste each dish but don’t force her to eat more if she doesn’t like it. Best of all, set a good example. If you are eating healthy, chances are your children will also.
1. Grow them.
Spring is here -- time to plant those vegetable gardens. Even a small plot or a few containers will work. If you haven’t gardened before, choose plants that are easy to grow and provide a big yield, like green beans, zucchini, lettuce, kale or tomatoes. Let your child pick out the seeds and help with the planting, watering and harvesting. Last summer, my two-year-old daughter would beg for a green bean every time we walked past the garden.
2. Mince them.
A food processor is a great investment. It can puree baby food, mix cookie dough and mince heaps of vegetables in seconds. Place washed and dried greens, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, etc., in your food processor with the metal blade and chop very fine. Minced vegetables can be added to soups, rice, mashed potatoes, spaghetti sauce, pesto, pizza, pasta dishes, eggs, tuna and egg or pasta salads – just about anything. Add them to food you know your family likes. They’ll hardly notice a taste difference.
Once vegetables are minced, they will keep only a few days in the refrigerator. No problem -- make a big batch and freeze it. Lay the minced vegetables on a baking sheet and place in freezer. After a couple of hours, transfer to a freezer container. They will keep frozen for months. Just take a handful out anytime you need them.
3. Dip them.
Kids love to dip things. Give them raw or steamed carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber slices, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower. Use hummus, salad dressing, cream cheese, peanut or almond butter, tahini, yogurt, mayonnaise, cottage cheese, pureed tofu with herbs or even ketchup for dipping.
4. Top them.
Sprinkle a little grated cheese on your child’s vegetables and watch them disappear. Even a little butter or sesame oil can make a big difference. When I was young, my mom’s crumb topping was such a hit that my siblings actually fought over Brussels sprouts. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil and mix in one-half a cup of bread crumbs; crumble over vegetables.
5. Puree them into soups.
If your children won’t eat chunks of vegetables in their soup, puree veggies in your blender or food processor. Try blending your favorite vegetable, bean or chicken soups. You’ll be surprised how delicious they taste. My kids call them smoothie soups and like to drink them from a cup. Pureed soups are a soothing way to nourish a sick child who doesn’t want to eat.
6 . Bake them.
Bake zucchini muffins, squash bread, carrot cake, pumpkin or sweet potato pie using whole grain flour and a small amount of honey, maple syrup or sugar to sweeten. Try savory goodies like broccoli-cheese muffins or zucchini cornbread. Add minced veggies to bread, pizza crusts, rolls, muffins, etc.
7. Add them to burgers.
Another great way to use minced veggies is to mix them into beef or turkey burgers or meatloaf. Even better, make veggie burgers from whole grains and vegetables. Eat them like regular burgers with all your favorite trimmings.
Quick Veggie Burgers: Mix 2-1/2 cups cooked rice or millet with one grated carrot, 1/2 a cup of minced kale or collards, one beaten egg, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon soy sauce or salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand. Add a little water or bread crumbs if necessary to get them to stick together. Shape into patties and fry in small amount of oil until both sides are brown and crisp. Burgers can also be baked at 400° on an oiled baking sheet about 10 minutes per side.
8. Drink them.
Vegetables in smoothies? You won’t even taste them. Try this combination -- I call it the Everything Smoothie: Place 1-1/2 cups apple juice, 1/2 apple (cored and sliced), 1/2 orange (peeled), 1/2 sweet potato or 1 carrot (sliced), 1/4 cup chopped kale or cabbage and 1 banana into your blender or food processor. Puree together. Makes 2-3 servings.
© Cathe Olson
Cathe Olson is a mother, freelance writer and the author of Simply Natural Baby Food and Beyond Rice Cereal. The Olsons raise organic vegetables, herbs, fruit and free-range chickens on their farm. Cathe writes newsletter columns, articles and books on whole foods cooking while caring for her daughters. Learn more at SimplyNaturalBooks.com.