Angelika is a good hobby gardener. I will not be surprised if she updates us at some point about her beautiful flowers and vegetables. This is on many people’s minds with planting season upon us. Occasionally I’ve had some luck planting tomatoes or herbs (And I’ve kept a houseplant she gave me alive for a year!) but I don’t have much of a green thumb.
But we love eating our vegetables! Don’t get me wrong. The kids will sometimes go a week subsisting off of crackers and air, then will turn around and be the most adventurous eaters you’ve ever met the next. I hesitated writing a post on eating our vegetables because while it arguably fits our nature themes, it can come off as “smug mommy-ish” and preachy and not everything works for everyone. But many times I’ll get together with friends and it is a frequently mentioned topic so I figured I had enough resources to make it fun and lighthearted. Some ideas are common, and some are a bit more out of the box.
- Let kids help cook them, grow them, or pick their own. We’ve heard if kids feel more ~ownership~ they’ll be more likely to want to devour them. Try to make it fun or different. Friends have told us their kids didn’t like certain meals until they prepped them in the Dutch oven while camping. But inviting them into the kitchen at home can work, too.
- Subscribe to a CSA if you have the opportunity and resources. We get Heaven’s Harvest and the last I knew Angelika was getting Farmer Dave’s. Kids get WAY more excited about their vegetables if they come in a box they can tear open like a birthday present every single week, believe me! I’ve actually found the vegetables turn out about twenty percent cheaper than if you buy even the non-organics at the grocery store but the “downsides” are you don’t get to choose what you want (For us this is a perk! We love surprises!) and you’re asked to pre-pay so the farmers can invest early and pay you back later. This can be tough if finances are tight, but more and more are offering payment plans and/or accepting SNAP.
Plus, you’re apt to get ~different~ things like ground cherries, a kid-friendly tomato relative that some say taste like a combination of strawberries, mangos and pineapples. Or veggies in strange shapes that are deemed too ugly for the store but are actually loads of fun, and might otherwise go to waste. Do you have a CSA you recommend?
- Alter its form. Jessica Seinfeld has her Deceptively Delicious books where she suggests things like pureeing cauliflower into your mac and cheese. These are good additions, but nutritionists are split on the tactic because they love to encourage people to eat veggies for their own sake. You may not need to hide things that much. My girls are actually pretty good at eating most things, but avoid leaves, although they’ve been tentatively using Napa cabbage as a gateway. But one of their favorite foods is pesto, go figure. Of course it is traditionally made with basil but can be blended up with kale or chard or broccoli or asparagus or pretty much any green.
- Think outside the box with what a “kid food” is. More than once, I’ve seen a child get offered something like olives or sushi and the parents said, “No, they won’t like it–they’re a picky eater.” only to see the kid eagerly devour it and hear reports they’ve continued to consume it readily at home. The kid may only have five things they like, but don’t assume brussels sprouts won’t be the sixth, just because of their rep or because you don’t like them!
- Trade with friends. Sometimes my kids will balk at a healthy snack I give them, but they inevitably want to try their friends’ snacks and vice versa. Obviously this is only recommended with good friends without known allergies but there have been times I called a friend up and said, “Pssst! I’ll pack the bell pepper slices today if you bring the carrots!” and the kids eagerly snatched up what their friend had even if they would’ve ignored their own because they felt like they were getting away with something.
- Try a cutesy presentation. We’ve all heard of ants-on-a-log. My kids have this plate for sanctioned play-with-your-food time. This is a common suggestion but an oldie but goodie for a reason.
- Play around with condiments and sauces. Toddlers, especially, love dipping their food in all manner of things. Put out some mini-ramekins filled with a variety of choices and you might find the veggie sticks gone. Be careful, as many condiments have added sugar, but there are many without and you still might prefer the sweet dips on grape tomatoes versus chips. And yes, the kids might want to do things that sound odd to you like putting strawberry cream cheese on eggplant or soy sauce on apples. Let them! We only cringe because we’re socialized to. If they are things you’d let them eat in other combinations, don’t stop them! It probably won’t last forever and it is getting it into them.
Again, this is not one-size-fits-all, and things can be tricker for individuals with medical reasons for their hesitations or for supertasters. But it can be fun to share experiences and bounce ideas around. What are your best tips for getting your kids (or spouses or friends) to eat their vegetables?