Winning Ways with Vegetables
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Eat your veggies! We hear this recommendation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, your child’s pediatrician and even the Jolly Green Giant®! What to do though when the only vegetable your child will eat is an occasional pickle? There are actually a LOT of ways to work with kids who are picky with vegetables.
But first take a look at what NOT to do:
Do NOT attempt to force or punish a child into eating vegetables (or any food for that matter).
This includes not only trying to push the unwanted bite of veggie into your child’s mouth but also punishing them by making them sit at the table until the vegetable is consumed. Many well- meaning parents have tried this, and have discovered that meals are no longer fun for anyone. Nothing is gained from this negative experience and the kids are NO closer to actually liking the vegetable.
Do NOT label your child as being “disrespectful” or “uncooperative” for not eating vegetables.
It’s understandable that you want your child to eat the veggies that you purchased and worked so hard to prepare. How frustrating it is when they refuse to even taste them! Your child is not trying to be difficult though. He may have had a previous bad experience with a particular vegetable. Or it may have a funny smell. Or your child might be worried that he will gag if he puts it in his mouth and really hates it. There are LOTS of reasons why kids might not want to eat their vegetables. Refusal to try the veggies does NOT count as bad behavior!
Now try a new approach!
DO consistently include vegetables with meals.
When veggies routinely show up as a normal part of meals, kids learn to expect them. Just seeing the veggies again and again (without pressure to eat them) often creates curiosity and may eventually lead to a taste!
DO eat veggies yourself.
Kids learn that veggies are for are EVERYONE when they are accustomed to seeing their parents (and older siblings) eating them.
DO make the veggies taste delicious!
A bit of real butter and a sprinkle of fresh or dried herbs can totally upgrade an otherwise boring steamed vegetable. Replace over-cooked, “mushy” vegetables (often described by kids as “nasty” or “gross”) with a blend of roasted carrots, zucchini, onions and Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. The right dressing can turn an otherwise “so – so” salad into a big hit.
DO find ways to (invisibly) work veggies into the recipe.
Kids do NOT like to be tricked into eating vegetables, BUT if some invisible veggies find their way into the food as part of the recipe, then all is well. For example mashed cauliflower looks like mashed potatoes and tastes amazing when butter is added!
DO encourage your child to help select and prepare vegetables.
Many parents have discovered that their kids are more willing to try vegetables when they have helped pick them out and prepare them. Kids LOVE being in the kitchen. Try out the spinach cilantro meatballs below:
Spinach Cilantro Meatballs
2 pounds ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, bison, etc.)
½ medium onion (finely chopped)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. herb blend (salt free seasoning)
1 tsp. cumin powder
2 cups (packed) baby spinach, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
2 eggs, whipped with fork or wire whisk
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly spray a large baking sheet with a non-stick cooking spray (or may line the pan with unbleached parchment paper).
Using hands, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix very well.
Roll into small balls and place onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes (until meatballs are beginning to brown and are cooked all the way through)
Enjoy! They are delicious just as they are, OR you may want to try them with a sauce.
NOTE: Feel free to vary this recipe by substituting other veggies for the spinach and cilantro. For example grated zucchini or finely chopped carrots.