Does your child pull a face whenever he sees a broccoli? Pulling teeth could be more appealing than getting him to eat veggies? Read what our expert has to say and learn 5 creative ways to prepare yummy veggies.
Let’s face it. Not all kids love their greens and some little cherubs would run a mile away if you tried to feed them veggies. A recent American survey showed that 88% of children between ages two to five do not meet the US government’s nutritional requirements for a kid.
Although similar studies have not been done in Singapore, a quick survey proved that many have a difficult time in getting their young ones to finish a serving (100-150g) of vegetables!
A childcare teacher, Nurul Syahidah, said: “It is pretty easy to feed my daughter but she is only 8 months old and not a picky-eater yet. However, my students, the ones who are from 3-6 years old, are very hard to feed. They often spit out the vegetables in their lunch and refuse to eat any.”
Armour-up—here comes the vege-battle!
Parents should not give up in the vege-battle with their kids. Children require all the nutrients they can get to grow healthy and continue leading an active lifestyle.
The Singapore Health Promotion Board advocates a toddler to eat one serving of vegetables a day and for the older children – at least two servings a day. If they cannot even ingest a few spoonfuls, how are they to eat a serving or two?
Well, we have come up with 5 creative ways to prepare veggies so that it is not as obvious as what’s being served at the dinner table.
You do not need a high-end food processor but do get a decent one that would allow you to process both greens and meats.
Mince vegetables so that you can add them to your sauces, soups and other dishes. You can also add minced veggies to bread, pizza crusts, rolls, muffins, etc. Another ideas is to mince meat along with greens to make items like burger patties or nuggets. The tiny bits of vegetables will go unnoticed by your kid!
Now put that same blender to good use by pureeing vegetables into soups and dips. For instance, the Sneaky Chef recommends the mixture of baby spinach, blueberries, lemon juice and water to make a delicious purple puree. Take note that colours can intrigue and entice your young ones. Remember, some vegetables require boiling to soften before cooking.
Side note: Wash your processor if you use raw meats to prevent cross-contamination.
Children love desserts so why not put vegetables into their favorite treats? Bake Zucchini Muffins, Squash Bread, Carrot Cake, Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie using whole grain flour and a small amount of honey, maple syrup, or sugar to sweeten. Try savory goodies like Broccoli-Cheese Muffins or Zucchini Cornbread. Yum!
If you can’t make your kids eat vegetables as they are, then substitute their favorite food with suitable green options. For instance, use sweet potatoes instead of normal white ones when you make mash potatoes or fries. Replace meat burger patties with soy and vegetable patties.
Find easy-to-make vegetable burger recipes online. We love the vegetarian Portabella Mushroom Burger with Avocado, which we found on vegetarian.com! To get the kids to like it, you could make mini versions of such burgers and present them in a creative manner.
Hide the greens in a smoothie form. A cold, fun drink like that would be delicious to the children without them knowing what is in it. The savvyvegetarian.com concocted an ‘Everything Smoothie’ which has 1 1/2 cups apple juice, 1/2 apple (cored and sliced), 1/2 orange (peeled), 1/2 raw sweet potato or 1 carrot (sliced), 1/4 cup chopped kale or cabbage, 1 banana, all blended together into a drink.
You can explore and create your own vegetable drinks which your kids might enjoy!
Tips from an expert
We’ve also teamed up with senior dietician, Izabela Kerner, to combat this problem.
1. Divide and conquer
Most kids just assume all green, leafy-looking foods taste terrible. So don’t bring out the broccoli, spinach or celery just yet! Trick them into trying veggies by first introducing the milder and sweeter tasting veggies like cauliflower, potato and baby carrots. Once they’ve warmed up to the idea of eating veggies, bring out the green stuff!
2. Go shopping!
Take your kids grocery shopping the next time you need to stock up on fresh food. This way, children can choose what kind of meals they would like to have so you can be assured that there’ll be no disappointed faces during mealtimes!
The supermarket is also a fun place for kids to explore the rows of colourful vegetables and fruit, and get excited at live prawns and crabs on display.
3. Make up a story
Unlike adults, kids are not lured by the promise of antioxidants and the health benefits of vegetables. Izabela suggests using your kids’ favourite cartoon characters or heroes when explaining to your kids about the importance of veggies to their growth and development.
If Popeye and his can of spinach is the best you can come up with, try books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Amelia Bedelia series. The delicious pictures, presentation and descriptions of the food will make your kids unknowingly crave for fruits and veggies! Check out these 10 terrific titles for more yummy children’s books.
4. Master the art of camouflage
Sometimes it’s just better not to tell your kids they’re eating vegetables. Trust us, simply hide the veggies in their favourite foods and they won’t know any better.
Izabela recommends camouflaging veggies by chopping up and mixing vegetables into pasta sauces, lasagne, casseroles, soup, chilli and omelettes. Try adding veggie toppings to pizzas or give your kids chopped veggies with a dip to munch on as a study snack to help them concentrate better.
5. Keep trying!
This is the most important tip! Children’s food preferences and food-intake patterns are shaped largely by the foods parents choose to make available to them and their persistence in presenting a food that initially is rejected. Remember, children’s food likes and dislikes often change frequently so keep trying, you may be successful this time!