Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Family Meal: Where are the veggies?

It was always challenging to raise vegetarian kids who didn’t eat vegetables. For years, we fell into a pasta trap, making a vat of pasta most nights and letting the kids carbo load.

At a certain point, I’d had enough. I wanted my daughters to eat vegetables. It took some work, but eventually, I was able to get them to eat a more balanced diet, one that included many different vegetables.

I didn’t want to hide the veggies, like The Sneaky Chef Missy Chase Lapine so I came up with a few tips:

1. Drop the pasta. The first thing I did was just stop buying pasta. If I didn’t have it in the house, I couldn’t make it or offer it.

2. Rethink the sauce. Ok, so I do now make pasta once every other month. But I make a tomato sauce that includes an entire package of frozen chopped spinach and the girls are none the wiser. I dub this sauce ‘puttanesca’ and add chopped black olives, capers and hot sauce, along with shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes. So they get plenty of vegetables.

3. Go to the farmer’s market. The unusually colored vegetables, like orange cauliflower and purple carrots, have enticed my kids to try an array of veggies.

4. While I make dinner, I put out carrot sticks, slices of red pepper, jicama, or sugar snap peas. If a child comes by fainting from hunger, I point out the spread, which also includes hummus or another dip. If a kid is truly hungry, she will eat the veggies.

5. One of my kids just won’t eat salad. She hates leafy greens. Since my husband and I love salad, this causes great consternation. But, she loves fresh peas. We used to buy them just for her – snapping them is so time consuming – but the other girls figured they were missing out. So now they all eat fresh peas.

6. Read cookbooks together, and not just ones specifically designed for kids. The photography in Chez Panisse cookbooks makes almost anything look appealing. Except meat, but that’s another story.

7. Bake with veggies. Roasted acorn squash puree enlivens my waffles and muffins. You can even cut down on the sugar in muffin recipes when you add the puree. In a pinch, I have used prepared baby food.

8. Eat at ethnic restaurants. When kids get served food they don’t recognize, they might be more apt to try, not snub it. Since my kids like spicy food, they will try almost anything pungent at a Korean, Indian or Vietnamese restaurant.

9. My husband and I would sometimes treat ourselves to a snack before feeding the kids; samosas, or Spring rolls, saying we just had to eat right away and we couldn’t share. Of course, this made the kids really want to try our vegetable-filled treat and we’d ‘reluctantly’ offer a taste.

10. Finally, don’t stress too much. Soon enough, they go to school, on play dates, or out with their own money and make their own food choices. Model good eating habits and hope some of it rubs off.


  1. I TOO am a pastaloading veg!! I swear if it in't pasta, its rice. And I can cook as well, I just grew up in Europe and pasta is popular. were wonderful veggies. Now that we live in Thailand, we are cooking more veggie dishes at home, and when we eat out, we can get veggie samosas, baos, soups, and a plethora of other goodies for about 4 dollars. It makes me so happy I see my 3 year old enjoying veg. I am still a pasta addict, but I have come a long way LOL! Thanks for this post and your suggestions!!

  2. hi mom. its me. thanks for sharing that when i eat pasta i eat carrots and spinach. bye bye puttanesca.