The dilemma is probably as old as motherhood itself. How DO you get your kids to eat their vegetables? When I was a kid, I remember hating a LOT of things my mom put on my plate: beets, apple sauce, mustard, spinach, radishes (still not a fan – sorry Mom) and a bunch of other things. I always felt like they were on my plate to punish me for something I had done wrong.
As years went by, my taste buds matured and I developed a liking for everything on this list – except for the radishes. And it had absolutely nothing to do with my mom yelling or threatening (ok, maybe it did a little). Think about it: any of you drink wine? Would you have liked the taste at 3 or 6 or even 10 years old? Exactly!
When my step-kids came into my life, I followed my mother’s pattern. Part of me said, “don’t force them because they’ll only rebel”. But then my mother’s voice in my head said “if you don’t make them eat vegetables at a young age, they’ll eat junk for the rest of their lives.” Or something like that.
One time, I decided that I was going to “teach” my 6 year old step-daughter how absolutely yummy asparagus is. I pleaded, I offered an incentive (okay, bribed) and then threatened her with no dessert. After a whole lot of drama, she ate the asparagus and promptly threw it back up onto her dinner plate! Needless to say, I was done forcing vegetables on my step-kids.
It would have been very easy for me to just let the kids eat what they liked. After all, some kids truly do like asparagus, or broccoli, or beets. I was tired of the fighting and I certainly didn’t want a repeat performance from my step-daughter. But that wasn’t the answer either. As parents, we need to lead our kids, guide our kids, and take responsibility for their health until they’re old enough and mature enough to make those decisions on their own.
When my own son was born and started eating baby food, I made the classic mom mistake of introducing him to fruits first. Had I not learned anything from the other two? True, I wasn’t present when they were babies but surely I would have figured out a few things in this area, right? Not so much.
Once he got a taste of bananas, and plums, and cherry vanilla whatever that was, he was hooked. There was NO way he was eating green beans or peas, although carrots he liked a little. What had I done? As he got older, it didn’t get much better. He ate a few (very few) raw vegetables, but only if there was a dip of some sort nearby. And he would eat lettuce (iceberg of course) with loads of ranch dressing. Yuck! Was my 3 year old destined to live on yellow and brown food?
And then one day, as I was watching Oprah, there she was: Jessica Seinfeld. I had no idea why she was on the show. I was just excited because I was a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld and didn’t even realize he had a wife. Maybe they were going to debut a new show. Or maybe she was an up and coming comic and he was trying to help her career.
Imagine my surprise when she was there to promote her new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. I immediately hit up Barnes and Noble because I had to have that book and you know what? It’s genius! She worked with a nutrition expert by the name of Joy Bauer and together, they have created amazing recipes that are full of nutritious fruits and vegetables. And the kids are none the wiser!
Now, first let me say that I do not advocate keeping fruits and vegetables off your child’s plate. I willingly eat just about every vegetable there is and whatever is on my plate goes on my son’s plate. Some of them he likes, some he tolerates, some he wouldn’t eat for money. But I still offer them and he understands the importance of eating them. At almost 14, I’m pleased to say that he has a pretty well rounded diet.
But it took a while. And in the meantime, I wasn’t going to rely on store bought vitamins to close the nutritional gaps. The book tells you about each fruit and vegetable and what the nutritional value is of each. You’ll also learn what tools you’ll need (no fancy equipment necessary) and how to create all of the purees. What I like to do, after I have decided our menu for the week, is spend an afternoon cooking and pureeing all the vegetables. I put them in containers and label them so they are ready to go.
I have made Twice Baked Potatoes that include cauliflower, Potato Soup with butternut squash, Italian meatloaf with carrot, Lemon Raspberry cupcakes with squash and beets, and Blueberry Oatmeal Bars with spinach! And I’m telling you – you can’t tell these vegetables are in there.
Again, the long term goal is to get the kids to decide which vegetables they’re willing to eat and in what form (raw, cooked, in a salad, etc.). But if you’re concerned with short term health and nutrition, I highly recommend this book! I’m going to include a couple of my favorite recipes to get you started:
Creamy Potato Soup (Deceptively Delicious, page 128)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, cut in half
28 oz. organic, low sodium chicken broth
2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup of cauliflower puree (I steam it until soft, then put it the Magic Bullet with water until pureed)
1 ½ cups of butternut squash puree (I roast it in the oven, then put it in the Magic Bullet until pureed)
1 cup 1% buttermilk
½ tsp salt
¼ cup shredded Cheddar (optional)
Add olive oil to a large pot and cook the onion and garlic about 5 minutes. You want the onion soft, but not brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the broth and the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (partially covered) until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
Spoon the mixture into a blender with the vegetable purees, buttermilk and salt. Puree until smooth.
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese, if preferred.
This is GREAT comfort food. It’s soothing and very nutritious. Also good if you have a tummy ache.
Blueberry Oatmeal Bars (Deceptively Delicious, page 171)
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup softened, unsalted butter (I do not use margarine)
1 cup low sugar blueberry preserves
½ cup spinach puree
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan.
In large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Stir to mix well.
Add butter and cut quickly into dry ingredients with 2 knives. It will become coarse and no longer powdery. You will still see bits of butter – don’t overmix.
Set aside half of the oat mixture and press the rest firmly into the pan. Bake until lightly browned (but not fully baked). About 13 minutes.
While that is baking, mix the preserves with the spinach puree in a small bowl.
Once you take the baked mixture out of the oven, spread the blueberry mixture over it. Then, sprinkle the reserved mixture over the top. Bake until the topping is slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack and then cut into 12 bars.
You could have this for breakfast or even a treat! Make sure the bars are COMPLETELY cooled before eating them! Enjoy!