Admit it: making kids eat vegetables is one of the hardest parts of dinner time.
From Caesar salad to all-veggie stews and dishes, the dinner table will become a riot zone once kids started to drop their forks and refrain from eating those healthy veggies. However, forcing greens in their mouths is never the solution.
Sneaking considerable amounts of veggies in your daily meals is the general solution, but it takes skill, experimentation, and patience to pull this off. Here are some tips:
1. Start small
To slowly desensitize their palate for fast food, start by sneaking inconspicuous amounts of veggies in your favorite dishes.
For instance, instead of going all meat with your flame-grilled burgers, why not start mixing in some very finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery into the patty mixture, then increase the amount little by little?
Also, you can side your steaks with buttered veggies in small portions. However, the real trick in making them eat small amount of veggies is not guarding them while eating. You can leave the meal on the table, sit in front of the computer, and play online bingo at FoxyBingo while pretending you aren’t observing them.
You’ll be surprised how they will outgrow their distaste for veggies little by little.
2. Use them as alternatives
If your kids became accustomed to Big Mac and large orders of French fries, now is the right time to offer them some alternatives.
You can serve patties with veggie extenders or go full vegan by cooking meat-free burgers. Instead of French fries, you can season potato wedges and coat them, then bake them for oil-free wedges.
Cooking for little ones (and not so little ones) often presents some unique challenges.
While, obviously, you want to provide them with nutritious meals, it can be a pain in your….patience…to get them to eat the foods that are best for their growing bodies. We’re all probably well aware of the food plate and the number of servings our children need of healthy grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and calcium products.
Getting them to eat these nourishing foods…well, that’s another matter altogether, isn’t it?
Here’s the good news when cooking for children: you do not need to incorporate all the important nutrients into every dinner. This is not Chopped, and the judges won’t send you home for not using all of the ingredients.
If the dinner table has become a battle ground, if the kids are marching to the table, already prepared for war…go guerilla on them! Avoid pitched battles and sneak those healthy foods behind enemy lines when they least expect them.
Let’s face it…raw cucumbers, thinly sliced and sprinkled with salt, are freakin’ awesome, and make a much healthier snack than potato chips! But don’t just chuck a bowl of them in their face like a hand grenade…just set them out of the table, let them see you nibbling a couple yourself, and their own natural curiosity will eventually spring the trap.
Jungle warfare, baby!
The same holds true for melon and cantaloupes. These make excellent snacks and are a much-needed fruit in these important diets for little ones.
Here’s another biggie: If they don’t like apple slices…DON’T GIVE THEM APPLE SLICES! How hard is that? I don’t care if YOU love apple slices, if you do…great, YOU eat them. Give them some options. The goal here is not notches on your rifle-stock, it’s winning the war, long term!
MESS HALL FARE
There’s an old saying that an army marches on its stomach, and many a war has been lost not to bad planning, or bad soldiers, but to a lack of good food.
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Bad attitudes, lack of motivation, poor school performance…all of these “symptoms” have been tied to a lack of proper nutrition.
Regardless of what we think we can or can’t cook, the reality is that our kids cannot live on macaroni and cheese alone. It’s been tried and tested and failed miserably.
Try mixing things up whenever you can while keeping meals kid friendly. It is important that you try to introduce whole grains, proteins, and vegetables whenever possible at meal times around your home. Remember the “2 out of 3” rule:
Kids (and many adults) are quicker to accept a new dish if at least 2 out of every 3 ingredients are familiar favorites. Their favorite peanut-butter and jelly can be a Trojan Horse for whole-grain bread or crackers. Shredded cauliflower, carrots, or broccoli virtually disappear inspaghetti sauce. Land mine that home-cooked macaroni with cheese sauce (not that glowing-orange powdered junk) with fresh cooked peas and carrots.
You get the idea!
Cooking healthier meals for kids is now easier than ever before. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best whenever possible. However, if you cannot manage fresh, or frozen, at least avoid “canned with syrup” (swimming in sugary tooth-rotting sweetness) whenever possible. Frozen is far preferable to canned when it comes to both fruit and vegetables, as there are often fewer additives.
Turn their ration of milk into dessert (and get a healthy dessert at the same time) by mixing it into a frozen fruit, like ourBlueberry Slush.
TRAIN THE TROOPS
Encourage your children to try new things rather than cooking the same few meals over and over again that you know they are likely to eat. This prevents two things from happening. First of all, it helps you not to get bored when cooking for your children.
Second, it allows your children to try new flavors and textures and form opinions about them. By trying new things they will learn not only about the things they dislike but also the foods they really enjoy.
Kids tastes change over time. It’s frustrating, I know, to spend time and money preparing a meal only to have your child push the plate away and say “Yuck.”