Help Kids Eat Veggies
Will your kids eat veggies? Perhaps they’ll be more eager when you apply the principles below.
Veggies are Vital
It is not just a good idea to eat veggies. It is imperative! Without abundant vegetables in the diet, it is unrealistic to expect that you or your children will be getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to regulate the immune system. The tragedy is that an immune system that does not have sufficient micronutrients becomes vulnerable to cancer, infections, autoimmunity, allergies and asthma. If you want to prevent chronic disease in your family, you have to eat more nutrient-dense food. That means lots of leafy greens, plenty of vibrantly-colored vegetables, and ample sulphur-containing vegetables (those in the cruciferous, onion, and mushroom families).
In addition, when you eat veggies in place of other carbohydrates, such as grains and fruit, you help balance blood sugars. We have an emergency to steady our blood sugars, because statistically, one in three is pre-diabetic.
Help Kids Eat Veggies
It’s not a psychological mystery that children love making cookies and hate eating their vegetables. Beyond the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars, there are fundamental distinctions in the way we approach cookies versus vegetables.
It’s a sign of “mom love” to make cookies together. You and your child bond when you share the experiences of mixing ingredients, frosting, and celebrating with cookies. But do you get excited to make vegetable recipes and serve them to friends during holidays and special occasions? Most likely, you sternly tell your children that they have to eat their vegetables before they get a treat.
Principles for Celebrating Vegetables
The following principles are taken from the work of Melanie Potock, feeding therapist, who blogs at My Munch Bug.
- Friendship Principle: If you want to be friends with vegetables, they have to come play at your house frequently! Not only that, you have to model a friendship with veggies yourself.
- Curiosity Principle: Let your child experience and explore veggies through cooking, eating out, growing food, and culinary field trips. A child should be able to touch and smell a vegetable long before he is expected to touch it to his lips, put it on his tongue, and eventually eat it.
- Play Principle: Encourage him to use all of his senses in exploring the unique characteristics of each vegetable! Be creative and spontaneous. No ultimatums here!
- Firmness Principle: If your child knows that you will not require him to eat something if he doesn’t like it, he will learn he doesn’t have to try anything new. Instead, model this sentence: “I don’t care for it yet, but I’m practicing!” Kids must understand that vegetables are not optional.
- Kindness Principle: Kids may have anxiety about eating new foods. So, rather than forcing them, help them become comfortable by repeated exposure and play.
Play with Your Veggies
Here are some ideas evolved from Potock’s book, Adventures in Veggieland, that you can use to help your children eat more veggies.
- Stamp on some tattoos with beets, then rub them off with potatoes.
- Create sheep, or even teddy bears and other beasts, with cauliflower, broccoli, and toothpicks.
- Play Mr. Potato Head with large vegetables, such as eggplant, butternut squash, celery root, or jicama.
- Build log cabins with asparagus stalks. Also, you could also use green beans, or julienned yams, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or parsnips.
- Play Tic Tac Toe with any veggies that can be made into coins and matchsticks.
Make Veggies Playful
I suggested several ways to present vegetables in a playful manner in my post, The Nutrient-Dense Lunchbox. In addition, you can always use vegetables in making a treat. For example, you could put pureed spinach in chocolate pudding, or make cake using cauliflower (See my post, Eat More Veggies.) How about ice cream with red bell peppers in it, or apple crisp that uses squash?
Recipes to Help Kids Eat Veggies
The following recipes are adapted from Potock’s book.
Can’t Be Beet Dip
- 1 medium beet, or 2-3 small beets
- 1 small banana
- 3 Tb. plain Greek yogurt
- 1 Tb. honey (optional)
Roast the beet(s) by wrapping in foil and baking at 375 for 45 minutes or by slow-cooking in a crock pot for 2-3 hours. (Hint: you may cook a whole batch at once and refrigerate them until use.) Cut off the ends and slip the skin off. Puree in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Serve with apples and crackers.
- 4 large asparagus stalks
- 2/3 c. coconut milk
- 6 oz. dark chocolate bar (70% cacao)
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Strawberry & banana slices for dipping
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel away the thick skin. Steam asparagus until very soft. Place in blender with 2 Tb. of the coconut milk. Process until very smooth. Melt the chocolate with the remaining coconut milk and the vanilla over low heat. Add the asparagus mixture and get ready to dip!
- 2 heads cauliflower, different colors if desired
- 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
- 2 Tb. pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, break cauliflower into tiny florets. Combine coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon and pour over florets, coating evenly. Spread on foil-lined baking sheets and roast 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
Butternut Squash Crumble
- 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed ( or 8 oz. package)
- 1/4 c. dried tart cherries
- 1/4 c. chopped pecans
- 1 Tb. melted butter
- 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a square baking dish. Cover with topping (below). Bake 45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.
- 1/2 c. oats
- 1/4 c. oat flour
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 c. softened butter
Mix topping ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Scatter over the squash filling.
Cherry & Red Bell Ice Cream
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
- 1 c. frozen cherries
- 2 c. half & half (or coconut milk, if preferred)
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Blend until smooth. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.