Turning Children on to Vegetables
by Brenda Davis
The value of vegetables is well recognized by one and all – they are among the most protective foods in the diet providing vitamins, minerals, fiber and a host of phytochemicals. It is recommended that everyone consume at least 3 servings of vegetables each day. Unfortunately, these wonderful gifts of nature are not chosen nearly often enough. Most children eat 1-2 servings of vegetables each day. For many children these servings are not broccoli but rather French fries. Perhaps this situation would be remedied if we could interest our children in these fabulous foods during their formative years. Here are 3 simple tips for increasing your child’s intake and love of vegetables:
1. Encourage an interest in vegetables.
- Grow some in your own garden or even on your balcony.
- Bring children on an excursion to a farm so they can see how these foods are grown.
- Go to a “you-pick” farm to get corn, peas and other favorites.
- Let your child help pick out vegetables at the grocery store or farmers market.
- Bring your children to ethnic stores and explore different types of unfamiliar vegetables. Ask for information on how to prepare them.
- If available, order organic produce delivered to your doorstep. Children love opening these boxes to see what’s inside.
- Read storybooks with “vegetable” themes.
- Be excited about vegetables yourself – your example is a powerful teacher.
2. Provide plenty of vegetables.
- Turn vegetables into “convenience foods”. Prepare celery, carrots, radishes, broccoli, etc. and keep them in a crisper for easy eating.
- Include vegetables with lunch each day – a few raw veggies, vegetable soup, stuffed vegetable pitas or salad all go over well.
- Serve vegetables as snacks. Corn on the cob, green soybeans in their shell, veggies and dip, stuffed celery…let your imagination run wild.
- Provide a platter of veggies and dip before dinner when children are “starving” and waiting impatiently for something to eat. It is amazing how fast a plate full of vegetables can disappear!
- Include both cooked and raw vegetables at dinner. Variety will help increase total consumption.
3. Prepare vegetables in child-friendly ways.
- Prepare vegetables so that they are tender-crisp rather than mushy.
- If your child doesn’t like eating vegetables, try juicing them.
- Add vegetables to the family favorites – grate zucchini and carrots into veggie burgers and baked goods, make creamed soups with broccoli, cauliflower, squash and other vegetables, and puree vegetables and add to tomato sauces.
- Make dips and creamy sauces for vegetables. Any easy “cheesy” sauce can be made by blending raw cashews, diced red pepper and soymilk. Cook in saucepan until thick and flavor with nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.
- Barbeque marinated vegetables or corn on the cob.
- Make vegetables fun. Children love making pictures or shapes and patterns with food. Vegetable pieces are so bright and colorful; they lend themselves well to works of art.