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How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables (without force, bribery or scare tactics)

You're their chef, their chauffeur & their confidant...

You are their rock!

You make sure they're all fed & dressed before rushing out the door; to school, or ballet, or is it soccer practice this time? 
It's amazing how you manage to keep it all straight!

It looks like you've got everything under control; but you're still feeling like a frazzled hot mess.

No doubt the daily struggle of managing meltdowns & mealtime negotiations, while being treated like a never-ending snack machine, is taking its toll on you.

Of course you want them to eat their vegetables, you're doing the best you can, I see that. But when tantrums take their toll, the fuck-it button gets pressed & the crisper drawer becomes that place where good intentions go to die, amiright?

What if it didn't have to be that way?

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them" - Einstein

Sometimes, you're too close to the situation to see a different solution; all you need is a fresh perspective & a few new tricks to get the whole family eating (& enjoying) more vegetables.

 

7 Simple Secrets to Get Your Family to Eat More Plants

Play with your food

Texture, colour & aroma are key elements in the culinary experience, especially to a child.

Food should be experienced with all of the senses; I encourage everyone to play with their food. (sorry mom)

One fun & simple way to change up your dining experience is to cut &/or cook your plant foods in a different way. 

Vegetables can take on a whole new life depending how you prepare them. Chopped or grated, stir-fry or slow-cooked, the same ingredients will transform into completely new tastes & textures.

  • Celeriac (celery root) has a mild & refreshing flavour when eaten raw, but when cooked, grated into a soup for instance, the flavour intensifies & even a small amount can over-power a dish.
  • Cauliflower is a versatile cruciferous that can be roasted in the oven, steamed on the stove, boiled & mashed, grated into a stir-fry or made into pizza crust.
  • Ribboned red cabbage with spiralized carrots & zucchini look beautiful & taste delicious as a raw salad, or cooked as a 'noodle' dish. Cooked spiralized sweet potato also makes for a great pasta substitute.

Theme nights are fun too, like 'Taco Tuesday'. Keep it fresh by switching up the shells each week; lettuce boats one week, radicchio the next etc. Blanched cabbage leaves or collard greens work great as soft-shell wraps. Some non-veggie options include: non-GMO corn tortillas, nori or rice paper.

Highlight what they like

Got a thing for tacos?

Make your own spice blend & put that sh*t on everything.

  • Taco Seasoning: 2 Tbsp chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp (smoked) paprika, salt & pepper to taste. Optional: onion powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, etc. (note: daily use not recommended if sensitive to nightshades)

 

A picky person loves the colour orange?!

Great! Get them to help make a couple variations of creamy "orange soup"...

Note: this idea could be done with many foods, in any colour. Get creative! 
 
Ratios are important & flavour is king.

If they want rice for dinner, but you want them to eat their vegetables - what do you do?

Think about it: Picky kids don't want veggies in their rice... so, try putting rice in their veggies. 

Instead of trying to sneak a few broccoli, cauliflower & carrots on their plate, try mixing them together with the rice in equal parts & seasoning it with your family favourites i.e. teriyaki, tamari, bbq...taco spice? 

Watch your language

There are plenty of ways to sneak plant foods into the family favourites, but when you do, be careful what you call it...

Sneak sweet potato into brownie batter or substitute rice for grated cauliflower; go ahead, they won't notice - as long as you still call them "brownies" & "rice".

"Pizza" doesn't change just because you decided to make this cauliflower crust for pizza night.

Butternut squash seeds, roasted in the oven with a little coconut oil & salt, make a delicious snack & taste like popcorn. So, if you wanna get the kiddos to give them a try, call them "popcorn seeds" instead.

Smoothies are a great way to get the good stuff in with none being the wiser; but if you're having a hard time selling them on the idea, try calling it a "milkshake" & see how they respond. 

These "milkshakes" are a big hit! 

Give them options

We all feel more empowered when we can make our own choices; the trick here is, avoid giving them too many options.

Don't ask: "What do you want for dinner?"

...unless you enjoy watching someone go into full-blown analysis-paralysis & complete mental breakdown (this goes for hubby too).

Just KISS it...

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Beef or fish?

Salty or spicy?

Orange or red?

2 - 3 options tops & nothing fancy, got it?

Get them involved

"People support a world they help create" - Dale Carnegie

Whether they're choosing ingredients or chopping them with you, kids are more likely to eat something they helped create.

Let them help; you may find you've got an 'expert button pusher' for all the blender jobs, or a few extra hands eager to help mix & stir. #MinionsForever

Next time you're chopping veggies, let them chip away at the odds & ends with a spoon or toy knife (even if it's only destined for the compost bin). With older children, it's a great chance to teach them how to handle a knife safely. 

Educate them (& yourself)

We can make more informed decisions when we understand why; and I strongly believe the "why?" that often follows "eat your vegetables" deserves a better response than, "because I said so!" 

What is a vegetable anyways & why is it so important to eat them!?

Plenty of plants masquerade as vegetables; particularly the non-sweet fruits, such as tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, avocado, peppers, eggplant & squash as well as some seeds & grains, like peas & corn)

But by definition, "vegetables" are:
(grouped according to edible parts - this is not an exhaustive list)

Leafy Greens: arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli greens, cabbage, chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, endive, kale, mustard greens, rapini, spinach, lettuce (romaine, bib, red, butter, etc.)

Stalks & Stems: asparagus, Brussel sprouts, celery, chives, fennel, garlic scapes, leeks, etc.

Flowers: artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, chives, squash blossoms, etc.

Bulbs: fennel, garlic, leek, onions, shallots, etc.

Roots & Tubers: batata, beets, carrots, celeriac, horseradish, parsnips, radish (diakon, watermelon, etc.), rutabaga, salsify, turnips; cassava, ginger, potato, sweet potato, sun choke, water chestnut, yams, etc.
Note: All tubers are roots, but not all roots are tubers.
 

And, it's important to eat your vegetables because these foods give us life; they contain hundreds of thousands of phytonutrients along with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids & fibre. These nutrients play an integral part in our immune & cardiovascular systems, brain function & gut health. #TrueStory

It's also important to eat a variety of vibrant colours, because different colours bring new & exciting nutrients to the table. 

You don't necessarily have to try anything 'weird & wacky' to splash more colour into your meals; there are plenty of common plant foods that come in multiple colours, such as carrots, cauliflower, potatoes & tomatoes.

But if you are up for an adventure, next time you're at the market, I encourage you to try something new & make it a family affair!

 

 

 

Still skeptical?

I get it - you can only hear "I don't like vegetables" so many times before you're completely convinced they're just never going to eat them...you've "tried everything", right?

But, 

have you tried growing your own garden or shopping at a proper farmer's market?

Quality is key.

The sad truth is, it's hard to find real food at a grocery store full of plastic-wrapped, premature produce & packaged processed CRAP (carbonated drinks, refined foods, artificial ingredients & preservatives).

Most of the produce there was grown in mineral-depleted soils, sprayed with pesticides, picked far too early, then chemically ripened just to sit around for a couple weeks waiting for you to buy them. 

Honestly, I wouldn't eat them either. #FoodSnob

Plants need mineral-rich soils, time to ripen naturally & an entire ecosystem of micro-organisms to support the process; one teaspoon of healthy soil contains hundreds of millions, even billions of bacteria, several yards of fungi & thousands of protozoa.

Our soils (& our gut health) rely on a delicate balance of these micro-organisms, so it's important to choose pesticide-free produce as much as possible.

Real food is SLOW food;

Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole food & it's important to know where it comes from!

The most local way to do this is to tend your own backyard garden. This is a wonderful learning experience and excellent way to get kids in touch with their food. Even if you simply plant a pot of herbs or grow a tower garden, you'll quickly realize the difference between "fresh from the store" & "fresh from the source".

Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful way to try new things & learn what's in season. Look into joining a CSA share, or meet your farmers & ask them questions at your local farmer's market.

 

Remember, it's important to play with your food & I encourage you to get the whole family involved in the process! Get creative but watch your language, highlight what they like & give them options.

We need to educate each other on the importance of vegetables & the quality of our food. It's up to us, & I could sure use your help!

 

Much Love & Gratitude,

Meg xo

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