Ah, the trials of parenthood: Potty training. Temper tantrums. Getting kids to eat their vegetables. On that last one, at least, we can help. Depending on their ages, your kids need to eat 1 to 2-1/2 cups of veggies a day. Here’s how to get them on board.
It’s not just a desire to be difficult. Some vegetables are more bitter than others, and kids’ taste buds are especially sensitive to bitterness.
Starchy vegetables, like carrots, peas, corn and sweet potatoes, tend to have a sweeter, milder taste, so kids are more likely to eat them. Don’t try to force especially bitter veggies like spinach, broccoli and radishes.
Mix veggies into kid favourites like lasagne or mac and cheese. It’s not just a matter of masking the taste but of suppressing it: Some of the compounds that make vegetables taste bitter actually dissolve in fat. If you want to be especially sneaky, hide the vegetables altogether. Pureed cauliflower mixes invisibly into mashed potatoes or a creamy pasta sauce. Finely shredded zucchini or spinach disappears into brownies.
A quick dip in salad dressing gives raw vegetables a little flavour kick. So does cream cheese, especially a flavoured variety. Celery and carrots taste great dipped in peanut butter (which adds protein to the mix). Almost any condiment in your refrigerator is worth a try: barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, low-fat mayonnaise. Let kids experiment with mixing flavours.
And it doesn’t even have to be messy. Cut thin strips of carrots and peppers, and encourage your kids to create designs on a plate. Most kids are dinosaur fans, so remind them that the largest dinos were plant eaters. Hold a lettuce leaf just above a child’s mouth level and challenge him to stretch his neck for it, just like a brontosaurus.
Many kids (and grown-ups) who claim they don’t like vegetables really mean they don’t like overcooked vegetables. Boiling too long can turn even fresh veggies into a bland, mushy mess. Try steaming just until vegetables are crisp-tender. They’ll retain their flavour, and they’ll be a bright, appetizing colour.
Good luck getting a child to eat those green beans if he’s never seen you eat one! Model good eating habits for your child by putting something from each food group on your own plate at every meal.