My girls eat their vegetables and I’ve never had to fight with them either. Recently, I have been a little lazy about cooking and since I don’t keep frozen or canned vegetables on hand, vegetables had been a little lacking on our table. After about a week of this, the girls started talking about how they had to have some vegetables and how much they miss having veggies with their meals. So I hied my fanny to the store and stocked up on some veggies before a mutiny started brewing in my kitchen. LOL!
I know, I’m lucky that my kids have no trouble eating their vegetables. There are hundreds of meal time battles that I have thankfully been spared from. Friends and family ask me all the time how I got the girls to like vegetables and here are some of the suggestions I give them.
1. Start Early – the earlier you get them eating vegetables the better. This can start as early as infancy. When you breastfeed, and I hope you do because it’s the best way to ensure they are getting all their vitamins and nutrients, make sure you eat a healthy dose of vegetables. Remember, they eat what you eat so eat plenty of vegetables.
Them eating what you eat continues on as they get older. Set a good example and don’t let your own biases influence their taste buds. For instance, when choosing baby food flavors, get the green and brown stuff like peas, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Try to stay away from flavors with names like apple pie, strawberry shortcake and the likes. Bottled baby food is convenient but if you can it is still healthier to make your own baby food. When my girls were young, we used to cook their vegetables without or very little seasoning and mash them. Sometimes I gave them what we’re eating for dinner, which is usually pretty healthy: light on meats and heavy on vegetables, just blended for their sake.
2. Stay Fresh – I believe in eating fresh food as much as possible, ergo the lack of canned or frozen vegetables in my pantry. I am not averse to them (canned and frozen), I use them all the time when I can’t readily get the produce I need in fresh form, but I try to make it a rule to get fresh produce whenever possible.
The best way to get them as fresh as possible is to grow your own garden. But if that is not possible, farmer’s markets can be found just about anywhere now. Even though we grow our own vegetables in our backyard, I still frequent the farmer’s market to get some variety. I am actually counting the days when our own farmer’s market opens for the season again in April.
3. Keep it everyday – Vegetables should be on the daily menu much like you have the starch or the meat. Actually, it should be the main entree and not relegated to the side dish category, but that’s just me. If you start kids eating fresh vegetables early, it becomes commonplace to have green things on their plate and they won’t think anything of it. It’s just something to eat everyday. No big deal.
4. Keep it simple – Vegetables taste best when you don’t do much to them. So even if you say you can’t cook, you can still have your fill of vegetables by following one basic rule: Don’t overcook them! Everyone I’ve talked to who didn’t like vegetables have memories of mushy and overcooked veggies.
We had a guest one time who almost ran away from the table when he found out that we were having brussel sprouts. But out of politeness, he made himself sit down and taste what was set in front of him. After a bite, he exclaimed “Hey, these aren’t like any brussel sprouts I’ve ever had before. These are good!” When I asked him how his brussel sprouts were cooked before, he said they were boiled until they were almost mushy and they were frozen. Well, I wouldn’t eat my brussel sprouts either if I was served something like that!
Vegetables, for the most part, don’t need much time to cook. Simply steam them just until they are tender crisp and you almost don’t need anything else to season them. Try not to drown them in heavy sauces or melted cheese. Their natural sweetness and flavor are optimized the less they are heated and you won’t want to mask their natural flavors.
5. Try something new – Variety is the spice of life. You’ve heard that saying before, I’m sure. When you have broccoli or green beans or cabbage or lettuce day in and day out, no matter how well prepared and fresh they are I’d get tired of them too. So when you’re in the grocery store, make a point of buying a new vegetable to try out every week. That’s how we discovered the joys of asparagus, artichokes, turnip roots, radishes and many more. We just decided to try them one day and now they are regulars at our table.
If your grocery store has a limited selection, try visiting a Latin market or an Asian market. They usually carry produce that you may not have even heard of or tried before. For instance, it was at the Latin market that I found Nopales. Those prickly cactus plants you’ve probably skirted at the botanical garden before. It turns out they have a delicious flavor in salads. Search the internet for recipes or better yet, talk to the people at the store and make new friends!
Eating vegetables is one of the healthiest things you can do to improve your lifestyle and it shouldn’t be a chore. There are so many fruits and vegetables to be discovered that it can be a downright adventure! One of my daughter’s vegan friends, after having visited our house a few times, declared we have more produce at our house than they do and we’re not even vegetarians. Sometimes, I think it’s better when we don’t adhere to a label because even though I cook some type of meat everyday along with the vegetables, the vegetables always take center stage.
So, do you have at least 5 tips to share on how you get your kids to eat their vegetables? Why don’t you share them with other moms too? Leave me a comment and visit TwitterMoms where you can win a free bottle of vitamin D in the Liquid Sunshine Contest sponsored by www.wellesse.com.