Friday, October 4, 2013

Salvaging the Child Vegetable Relationship

Are you having a difficult time convincing your children that veggies are tasty?  Your efforts are admirable but take it from a previous veggie rebel, you probably won’t win.    Aside from threatening, tying the child to the chair and force feeding the gagging little being, there is an easy way to increase intake without feeling like you’ve just negotiated a 68 page contract.

We have, for the last 50 years been convinced that a diet low in fat and high in vegetable matter is the healthiest diet for the human frame.  If you’ve studied articles from The Weston Price Foundation, a Low Carb or Paleo Diet for any length of time, you now understand that while vegetable matter is important, there are more factors at play here than just a push for more fiber.  Remember, fiber is non-nutritive and while important, it contains no vitamins or minerals.   Fiber binds with cholesterol, old cellular matter and toxins, bulks the stool, as well, converts to butyric acid in the colon to act as food for our good bacteria.   

Vegetables contain many different vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy diet, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, carotenes, folates, and iron. They also contain complex carbohydrates which are the type that should make up the majority of carbs in the diet.  Today’s diets are heavy in the simple carbs like that of white bread, potatoes and rice, for example.    
Let me put you at ease…

These same nutrients are found in a variety of foods, not just the conventional vegetables we have been conditioned to consume.

So what is a parent to do if the child is consistently turning their noses up at the dinner table?  Should you turn into a sneaky “Mom chef” hiding kale in every dish you prepare?  It’s really not necessary and even if you’re on a 3 veggie rotation schedule, I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of options for you that might seem unconventional but they work.  

Ideas abound with a bit of creativity and a quick internet search.  Some of the most popular recipes I have encountered include cauliflower mash with cream, cheese and garlic, black bean brownies, cauliflower based pizza crust, and avocado pudding,. (While the avocado is a fruit, it is the only fruit to contain fat and the fiber content is pretty favorable)

If steamed or sauteed vegetables are readily eaten by your child, be sure to add plenty of butter.  Those fat soluble vitamins aren’t assimilated without the fat.  Don’t hesitate to use a bit extra in the beginning so the child predominantly tastes butter.

How about grilled veggies?  You’ve got the grill fired up and it’s too hot to cook inside so baste some zucchini spears with granulated garlic and olive oil and throw them on right before you cook your meat.   You can also opt for kabobs and make it a safe skewer event for the whole family. 
If even a thick slick of butter doesn’t convince your child, working the deceptive angle might be your best bet.  

I take my Vitamix to schools and blend for elementary school children and have great success with my Green Pina Colada Smoothie.  It’s quite theatrical.  I begin with 1 cup of coconut water, 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple, ½ cup frozen mango, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen kale or fresh spinach.  I hide the greens until the end and proclaim I have a secret ingredient.  Ewwww!  Is generally the exclamation when I pull out that handful of kale.    This is a great recipe but definitely a bit higher in sugar so if your child has blood sugar issues or is on a weight regulating plan, you might consider not utilizing this recipe and coming up with something lower in sugar like coconut milk, berries and greens.    
If the child’s aversions are based on color, I find that blueberries and spinach will make a beautiful purple shake.  

Purees are the hot deceptive additions to today’s dinner tables.  You can make a variety of different purees to add to spaghetti, stews, soups and other sauces.  Examples include; spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.   If you visit , you will locate a few free recipes that contain these very ingredients.    

Cauliflower is probably one of the easiest vegetables to work with and even though a mild cruciferous vegetable, the nutrients pack a powerful punch.  Mix steamed cauliflower with a butternut squash puree, cauliflower, ground beef and cheese casserole, faux macaroni and cheese and my personal favorite, twice baked cauliflower casserole.  Cauliflower also makes a nice thickener for gravy.  Just add the cauliflower to a baking roast or turkey during the last hour and once your roux is started, blend the veggies and add to thicken. 

Spinach is one of the most benign green vegetables we can utilize.   Throw your spinach in the food processor and add small amounts to hamburger patties, meatballs, meatloaf and egg bake casseroles. 
We so frequently get hung up on the conventional that we forget about the unconventional.  It’s ok to surrender to approaches like vegetables and fruit with dip for example.  Jicama, celery, cucumber rounds, sweet peppers and carrots apples, grapes and bananas served with a nice ranch or yogurt dressing are all great options.   This is particularly desirable during the warmer months.

 I would also like to encourage you to serve olives, nuts and seeds, coconut flakes and even a bit of fresh or dried fruit on the side.  Picky eaters do love to pick so give them several little options.   Remember, the plate does not have to be green all of the time, it just needs to be balanced with plenty of fat and protein and slow digesting carbohydrate that contain plenty of antioxidants. 
Another tip, chop everything small so that the mouth feel is desirable.  A Normandy style mix for example chopped small and sautéed in butter and garlic is quite tasty even for the most discriminating mini palate!  

When children are involved, they are more likely to experiment what they have grown or prepared.  It is imperative that we establish education around nutrition and there is no better way than to begin early in the garden and kitchen. 

Whatever your choice, don’t give up and remember, consistency is key.  If 2 green beans make it down the shoot, consider the meal a success!


  1. Gorgeous!! this is such a great project! thanks so much for sharing!
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