Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 Tips: Fun with Vegetables

I may have been a picky eater when I was a child, but I also ate most vegetables. It was never a problem to get me to eat a salad – I just liked it plain, with no dressing. It was all part of my no condiment stance. But it angered my mother, who insisted I use dressing (why? It’s not the healthy part).

Anyway, at some point I discovered blue cheese dressing and started dumping it on my greens.

With my kids, it was a different story. It was a challenge to get them interested in vegetables, possibly because they had few other choices. Perhaps if I’d plied them with meat, they would have rejected it, as I did, for the veggies. So I had to be creative, and think of ways to sneak veggies into food and involve the kids in the process.

1. Farmer’s markets: from the time the kids were little, we took weekly trips to the farmer’s market and let the kids choose what to buy. When you are faced with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, healthy food is bound to be chosen.

2. Read cookbooks together. And not just ones for kids. I have a huge cookbook collection, and I look through them with my daughters, or let them read them alone, and mark them up with post-its.

3. Cook together. This can be frustrating for kitchen control freaks, but when the result is ownership of the meal, kids are more willing to try exotic foods.

4. Taste tests. Since my kids actually like dressing, I let them experiment with different kinds. We would put out bowls of three kinds of ranch dressing, for example, and let them sample each – by dipping in string beans or baby carrots, of course.

5. Shop at ethnic markets. In NYC, we are blessed with Chinese and Japanese supermarkets, Middle Eastern stores, kosher stores, cheese shops galore. We once visited a Polish store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and came home with dozens of unknown items.

6. Cut food into fun shapes. Make a radish flower, a heart shaped sandwich, pinwheel wraps, all of which can entice kids to try different foods.

7. Color your food. Let your child add a drop of food color to milk to turn it her favorite color, or make green eggs with food color and spinach.

8. Have a picnic. Food can taste better when eaten on the ground, whether in the backyard or on a blanket on the floor of the dining room.

9. Use different utensils to try different food. Our kids were a lot more receptive to Asian soups when I bought the large ceramic soup spoons that the Chinese restaurants use. And they tried Japanese noodles dishes loaded with vegetables and veggie dumplings when I got them special kid-sized chopsticks.

10. Have breakfast for dinner. But make your pancakes with butternut squash puree or mashed sweet potatoes and serve fried bananas on the side.

Try to keep the mood light and have fun.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and The Hub blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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