Mealtimes are as different across the country as, well, families. Each family approaches mealtime in a way that works for their particular situation. Some choose a buffet style option where family members fill their plates at the stovetop or counter and then sit down at the table. Others choose a family style option where serving bowls or plates are passed around the table, each family member taking a portion of his or her choosing. And then there are other families, typically with smaller children involved, where Mom decides what goes on the plate and how much.
Regardless of which mealtime style your family chooses, I think many moms would agree that children and teens are probably not getting as many veggies as they should for their bodies. These vegetables carry important nutrients that are essential for growth and development, as well as antioxidants which protect the cells and help to prevent illness and even disease. So what’s a mom to do?
One option would be, if you have children that are younger than teenagers, to move away from either the buffet style or family style option and make their plates instead. This will help to ensure that every item on that evening’s menu is at least represented on each plate and in correct proportion.
Even if kids do place the vegetables on their plates, they tend to over emphasize the entrée, leaving little room for anything else. This means that kids are not only missing out on crucial vitamins, but they are probably taking in more calories than they should because they are eating more of the entrée in order to feel full.
If children are used to “doing it themselves” you might tell them that you were creating too many dirty dishes the other way, or that they can earn back the right to make their own plates once you’re confident they are on a better track. You might ask them to have a hand in the meal planning and preparation to achieve better cooperation.
Another idea might be to set out fresh, crisp vegetables with an organic dip or hummus 15 minutes prior to the meal (no bread please). If you have an eat-in kitchen, the family can be munching away on their “appetizer” while you finish the final preparations of the meal. If your dining area is separate, you might consider doing a family style set up, but only the “appetizer” gets passed around first and the main entrée and other sides are passed around once everyone has had a chance to get their fill of vegetables.
Finally, if you have little ones, consider making fun characters or shapes with the vegetables. Who remembers “ants on a log”? If you’re a little creative (Pinterest anyone?) you can turn even the pickiest little eater into a veggie virtuoso!
These are just some ideas I came up with over the course of the years. You probably have some great ideas too. Please feel free to share what you do to get your kids their fill of veggies.
To your health and happiness,