Some children devour plates of crunchy salads and gobble up steamed broccoli like it’s candy—but what can you do if your kids refuse to eat anything green? Most kids (and many adults) don’t like the strong taste and texture of these leafy green vegetables. Rather than trying to get your child to eat food she doesn’t like, fix the vegetables in a way that she’ll enjoy. Don’t load your child’s plate with huge, overwhelming helpings: Give him a little and let him ask for more. Encourage your child to taste each dish, but don’t force her to eat more if she doesn’t like it. Best of all, set a good example. If you’re eating healthy, chances are your children will, too.
Grow Them Plant a vegetable garden. Even a small plot or a few containers will work. If you haven’t gardened before, choose plants that are easy to grow and provide a big yield, like green beans, zucchini, lettuce, kale or tomatoes. Let your child pick out the seeds and help with the planting, watering and harvesting. Last summer, my 2-year-old daughter would beg for a green bean every time we walked past the garden. A family garden gives children a connection to their vegetables.
Mince Them A food processor is a great investment. It can puree baby food, mix up cookie dough, and mince heaps of vegetables in seconds. Place washed and dried greens, cabbage, broccoli or carrots in your food processor and chop very fine. Minced vegetables can be added to soups, rice, mashed potatoes, spaghetti sauce, pesto, pizza, pasta dishes, tuna or eggs—just about anything.
Once vegetables are minced, they will keep only a few days in the refrigerator. No problem: Make a big batch and freeze it. Lay the minced vegetables on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. After a couple of hours, transfer the frozen veggies to a freezer container, and they will keep for months. Just take a handful out anytime you need it.
Puree Them into Soups If your children won’t eat chunks of vegetables in their soup, puree it in your blender or food processor. Try blending your favorite vegetable, bean or chicken soups. You’ll be surprised how delicious they taste. My kids call them “smoothie soups” and like to drink them from a cup. Pureed soups are a soothing way to nourish a sick child who doesn’t want to eat.
Bake Them Bake zucchini muffins, squash bread, carrot cake, or pumpkin or sweet potato pie using whole-grain flour and a small amount of honey, maple syrup or sugar to sweeten. Try savory goodies like broccoli-cheese muffins or zucchini cornbread. Add minced veggies to bread, pizza crusts, rolls and muffins.
Add Them to Burgers Another great way to use minced veggies is to mix them into hamburgers or meatloaf. Even better, make veggie burgers from whole grains and vegetables. Eat them like regular burgers with all your favorite trimmings.
Quick Veggie Burgers: Mix 21/2 cups cooked rice or millet with 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup minced kale or collards, 1 beaten egg, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon soy sauce or 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand. Add a little water or breadcrumbs if necessary to get them to stick together. Shape into patties and fry in small amount of oil until both sides are brown and crisp. Burgers can also be baked at 400° on an oiled baking sheet, about 10 minutes per side.
Drink Them Vegetables in smoothies? You won’t even taste them. Try this combination—I call it the Everything Smoothie: Puree 11/2 cups apple juice, 1/2 apple (cored and sliced), 1/2 orange (peeled), 1/2 sweet potato or 1 carrot (sliced), 1/4 cup chopped kale or cabbage, 1 banana. Makes 2 to 3 servings.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #35.
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