How to Teach Your Kids to Love Vegetables
Somebody asked me the other day whether I was a picky eater as a kid. I remember hiding lima beans under the edge of the plate when my mother wasn’t looking and slipping pieces of liver into my napkin that I would slyly feed to my dog Pete, but for the most part I ate what my mother cooked. And she did cook, almost every night. We seldom ate out and always ate together around the table.
At an early age I also learned to cook, at first from my mom and later from other chefs and friends. Although I don’t yet have kids of my own I wondered what other parents did to get their kids to eat their veggies, and if there were themes in their culinary progression similar to my own.
I asked a couple of my co-workers here at Full Circle what they did to get their kids to eat veggies and I found their responses to be educating and entertaining. Linda O’Brien, our Customer Service manager told me that a garden was a great help in getting her boys to eat their vegetables. “They’d eat anything they grew themselves,” she said.
My mom too used this tactic. I remember always be especially proud and anxious when I pulled out the first carrots I had planted or cutting off heads of butter lettuce to make our families salad with dinner. Linda also said her children would try anything they had a hand in preparing and when all else failed, she introduced veggies with their favorite browned butter or cheese sauce. Nothing like cheese and butter to make a plate of veggies seem like a treat!
Another Full Circle mom, Alexis Allen, used similar tactics. “For Stella, by far the best way to get her to eat veggies is to engage her in the preparation – cutting, peeling, decorating plates all work well; as does making a salad dressing or marinade, and adding the fun finishing flavors she likes to a dish, like lemon juice, salt or honey.”
It really is amazing what a little bit of lemon juice can do to broccoli, or kale. A roasted pan of carrots turns into dessert when topped with mint and honey. But, for Alexis it wasn’t just the nutritious benefit she enjoyed. “The best thing about this is I also get to spend time with her while cooking. One lasting cooking game is to pretend we are captured warrior princesses (Jasmine and Jasmyne) who are plotting escape from the kitchen of the evil Sultan.”
Another of her tips rings true for me – not overcooking vegetables and keeping them a little crunchy. Cooking with fresh veggies makes this easier, you try keeping a frozen bag of veggies from getting too soft and you’ll see what I mean.
Alexis’ final advice was just pure trickery. “I am known for pulverizing raw kale and incorporating it into all sorts of things – soups, lasagna, fried rice…all trickery to hide the poison from the Sultan.” Of course it is.
What are some of the ways you teach your kids to eat their veggies, either by coercion, education or just guile? Let us know in the comments below. Looking for some recipes that are simple and appealing for all ages? Try our list of kid-friendly recipes.