Imagine this: It’s 5 o’clock, the table is neatly set, the children are quietly eating their dinner until one politely asks, “Mom, may I have more vegetables?”
The reality is that dinner time can be the most stressful part of the day. At some point, most children go through a picky phase toward vegetables and, for some children, they absolutely protest at the sight of anything green (except maybe the beautiful Miss Green M&M).
So, what do you do? Who can you turn to? The pediatrician, a dietician, voodoo?? The answer to this conundrum comes from years and years of passed down advice and tricks from veteran moms like Paula.
OFFER FIRST: Give them the vegetables first when they are most hungry and more likely to give it a try. For snack time offer carrot sticks with ranch dressing and if they finish all of their carrots they can have crackers next.
BABY STEPS: Every lunch and dinner offer a vegetable. Your child needs three servings of vegetables per day and if you break this out between lunch, snack and dinner this is less daunting. The more your child sees the vegetables the more likely they are going to try them.
FOLLOW THE LEADER: Child see, child do. The best way to do this is through family meal time. This can be a challenge for busy families, but at least try to make the effort a few nights a week. If this is not possible, when you serve your children’s dinner you can sit with them and munch on carrot sticks as an appetizer before eating with your spouse later.
TEXTURE: Some kids will gobble down raw carrot sticks but refuse cooked carrots. The same can be true for many other vegetables as well. Try serving raw zucchini and squash with a yummy dip as a snack for a change. Be cautious with raw veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc) with children under two, they can be choking hazards The way to discover if your child leans more towards raw or cooked is through trial and error. One mom said her toddler used to love frozen peas! A bit strange but it counts.
DIP!!: More moms swear by this tactic: cut the veggies into spears or small bites and serve with a dip. To the child’s mind it’s seen as an activity and it feels more like eating chicken nuggets than eating vegetables. Fun choices are ranch, catsup, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, flavored cream cheese, hummus….the choices are endless. Find a dip they like and they’re likely to gobble up those veggies!
HIDE IT: Deception can be fun! One mom likes to hide a cup of steamed, mashed butternut squash in her mac-n-cheese. Another mom makes mashed cauliflower. It has the consistency and appearance of standard mashed potatoes but is all veggie. One thing almost all children love is spaghetti. When making your standard meat sauce, add a cup of finely diced zucchini and let it cook down. After 30 minutes to an hour the tomatoes, onion and zucchini are virtually hidden and your child will only see a yummy red sauce for their pasta.
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR: If your child tries something new or finishes all their veggies offer a reasonable dessert. Be their biggest cheerleader.
MAKE IT FUN: Another tactic mother’s have been using for years is effective marketing. Telling your children if they eat their carrots they can have “xray vision like Superman” or by eating their spinach they can have “muscles as big as Popeye”.
Remember a child’s flavor palate changes every couple of years and almost every child at some point has been a picky eater. Some of the world’s best food critics and executive chefs were, at one time, a picky eater.
Keep trying, be creative and have fun!
NUGGETS AND FRIES….UNDERCOVER
2 zucchini, washed, cut in 1/4 - 1/2 inch rounds
2 end pieces of sandwich bread, crumbled in blender or food processor
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Non Stick Cooking Spray
1 sweet potato, peeled & cut into thin strips like “french fries”
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Puree the sandwich bread in your food processor until fine crumbs. Place crumbs into a bowl and add 1/3 cup parmesan. Place zucchini into crumbs and press into until both sides are well coated. The moistness of the bread allows the crumbs to stick without using an egg wash. Place coated zucchini on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Spray with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn halfway through. Serve with ranch dressing for dipping.
Wash and peel the sweet potato. Cut into strips that resemble french fries. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar. Place sweet potato fries on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft. For a crispier “fry” keep skins on and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.