Just about everyday I hear from someone about the challenges of eating healthy with a family. "My husband doesn't eat vegetables," "I am having the hardest time making them eat their vegetables," "My kids only eat chicken nuggets and french fries," "Canned vegetables are bad for you, right," or "I don't know how to cook vegetables." For some of these I have choice comments that I will keep to myself, but for the rest let's explore our past. Our grandmothers (sorry to be sexist here) never had the option of cutting open a frozen package of vegetables nor the ease of running out to the grocery store--those came around in the 60's! Granted most moms work today, but the modern conveniences should make things far more encouraging than discouraging.
Number 1--frozen, canned, or fresh does not matter in the end. What matters most is that you are eating vegetables. The recommendations continue to climb to ~5+ servings of VEGETABLES per day, and most Americans get on average 1 to 2 servings per day. So, throw out the perception that frozen or canned don't matter. If that is what's keeping you from eating vegetables then it is doing you a major disservice.
Next, do you remember liking all of the vegetables your mother made you eat? Me neither, but I am thankful that she made me eat them, because it gave me the courage to keep trying them as an adult. Keep trying! Have a rule of 1 to 2 bites...PERIOD. And dads, you need to set an example and adhere to this, too! No BUTS!
So, you only like a handful of vegetables. Well, that is fine, but give them some variety. Google your favorites and try new recipes. For instance, have you ever had grilled sweet potatoes? Check out this sweet potato recipe then! Try new things to your old favorites.
Alright, I am going to go there--so, your kids ONLY like chicken nuggets and french fries, or whatever the compressed piece of meat it is--THAT IS RIDICULOUS! If their tongue was only meant to eat that then they would have starved to death a mere 50 years ago! Do yourself a favor and force them to try new foods, and STOP BEING A SHORT ORDER COOK! You are not doing ANYONE a favor! We are in a America, where childhood obesity is now matching adult statistics! No one will starve to death. When they get hungry enough they will eat, and no, you won't lose your #1 Mom status. Get back up from dad, too!
Last, certain vegetables do have a stronger flavor than others for kids. Think back, did you once despise onions and peppers and now enjoy them? If not, there is bound to be another vegetable you can think of. For me, I strongly disliked brussel sprouts (gag reflex), and now I love them. Of course, it took me learning how to best prepare them (slice thin and sauté with pancetta or bacon and finish with orange zest). Vegetables matter and are important so figure out a way to work them in. Can you grate them, puree them, mash them, or chop them into something else? Absolutely!
Here are a couple easy tips:
1. Grate carrots into spaghetti sauce
2. Put beans into burgers or meatballs (Kidney or Pinto work great in disguise)
3. Try adding grated zucchini to muffins--this used to be the way I started every culinary class I taught and it always turned out to be a favorite for the class
4. Carrot juice is easy to add to smoothies--start small and add as you can
5. Make a soup and blend some of your veggies in it before adding chicken and vegetables that are well tolerated (my fave--tortilla soup, blend peppers, carrots, and tomatoes for the base!)
6. Salads--create your own salad bar in your refrigerator. Every night pull out a tray filled with all your favorites and create a masterpiece salad for the night.
7. Mash together cauliflower and potatoes for healthier mashers.
8. Stick a carrot stick in a hot dog and say it's cheese!
9. Try different textures. Usually kids are more sensitive to textures than flavor. Know this, if you give them a reaction to their reaction they will continue giving you that reaction because they know it works. I used to mark students down if they made any facial remarks when trying foods, so that they would not influence others. Just because you or dad don't like it does not mean that you should let everyone else know that you don't like it. You negatively effect their reactions!
10. When in doubt add ranch or catsup (ketchup). It's better that they eat the veggies than not at all!
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