Stephanie Small, MSW, NE, is a psychotherapist and holistic nutritionist. She is the founder of Three Sisters Nutrition, a therapeutic practice that helps people improve their relationship with food.
String beans? “Eewwww!!!”
And don’t even try to go there with broccoli. Kids and veggies don’t mix, right?
Well, that’s the prevailing belief. But I don’t buy it. Today, I’m offering a few tried-and-true tips to help your children actually enjoy their vegetables.
Look forward to smiling faces after showing your child how to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Photo By whirledkid/Courtesy Flickr.
Let’s start out with the actual taste. Most of us, regardless of our age, need to actually enjoy the taste of the food we’re eating—otherwise, what’s the incentive to take all that time to chew it and swallow it? I personally can’t stand the way many veggies are prepared. I won’t eat cooked carrots or steamed cauliflower. But a raw carrot dipped in a delicious blend of oil and apple cider vinegar? Now you’re talking. Cauliflower roasted with balsamic vinegar, garlic and honey? Send it my way. It’s all about seasonings and dressings.
Kids like fun. Adults like it too but we often forget. Now that you’ve created a tasty dish, don’t ruin it by calling it by its actual name. Your children will flee. An unusual name and a creative shape help to create positive associations. This means that your snack of shredded carrots topped with peanut sauce and wrapped in a lettuce leaf is a “bird’s nest.” Sliced cucumbers topped with cream cheese and arranged in a row is a “caterpillar” (don’t forget to make a face). A healthy smoothie containing spirulina is a “green monster.”
Ask your kids and their friends for help preparing healthy snacks. Photo By whirledkid/Courtesy Flickr.
As soon as your kids are old enough, allow them to assist you in the kitchen. Even if their responsibility is limited to scooping a hunk of greens onto the plate, they’ll feel empowered. This will also help them develop a direct connection with food. When we have a hand in creating something, we feel more of an attachment to it. We can also help dictate how it’s created. Try asking your kids what vegetable they’d like this evening, and allow them to be the “taste testers” before you serve it. If they think it’s gross, ask them what it needs to be yummy.
You don’t like every vegetable on the planet, and your child probably won’t either. If he or she expresses revulsion to eggplant, you can try preparing it a few different ways (grilled, roasted, blended into a baba ghannouj), but if the disgust persists, let it go. That particular food just may not be right for your child’s body.
Remember, because children are growing, they need a wide variety of nutrients. Protein and fat are crucial. So if the veggies end up embedded in cheese or drowning in butter more often than not, it’s perfectly OK. Just be sure that your fats, like the rest of your foods, come from a good-quality source. Organic and pasture-raised are ideal.