The challenge of getting veggies into kids (especially toddlers) is twofold. First, vegetables can be surprisingly difficult to come by on a moment’s notice. I know, I know … it only takes a few minutes to steam some carrots or broccoli. And once your kid has enough teeth, it’s easy enough to slice up some raw peppers to go with those celery and carrot sticks. Still, fruits and vegetables require that much more forethought than your other food groups. That’s probably why I can usually dish up a nutritionally balanced dinner, but am always scrambling for veggie content at lunch. If we’re out and about it’s tricky to find veggies that aren’t a salad. (Colum’s not so good with the leafy greens.) And when we’re home I’m usually trying to whip something up in under 15 minutes to get lunch in before nap time.
Here’s my tip: If your kid is anything like mine (and most are), then you know that macaroni and cheese, or any kind of pasta, will always be gobbled up — no matter how tired or cranky. So, toss some veggies in with the pasta water when cooking the noodles and serve them up at the same time. Green beans work great, but broccoli or cauliflower or whatever you have on hand is worth a try, too.
This brings us to the second part of the veggies-into-kids problem. Will they eat them? I’ll admit to having had varying success with the veggies in the pasta water shortcut. The first time I tried it Colum eagerly swallowed a few bites and then calmly spit out any and all vegetable matter as he finished the rest of the macaroni and cheese. The last time, though, I served the green beans beside the mac ‘n’ cheese and he happily ate quite a few. Depending on the day, then, you might have to resort to a carrot muffin or zucchini bread snack later in the day to up the veggie quotient.
There are, of course, as many ways to serve up vegetables as there are to reject them. What’s important, I think, is that they’re always there. And as long as a few bites end up in our kids now and then, we’re doing alright.
Disclaimer: I had this post written and ready to roll, when my husband pointed out there is much ado in the world of sneaking vegetables into kids meals right now. (Go figure.) It seems that Jessica Seinfeld’s new book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food is under attack for having a few unusual recipes in common with another best-selling cookbook, Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals, by Missy Chase Lapine. For the record, then, any similarity between this post and the content of any cookbook is entirely coincidental. (How banal would that cookbook be? First boil the water, then drop in the pasta …) Let me go further. The very premise of pureeing spinach and adding it to brownies (a recipe common to both books) strikes me as ridiculous. Part of what we’re trying to accomplish as parents is an appreciation for vegetables and healthy eating that will last for life. If you’re so far gone that you need to completely disguise vegetables, then you’ve already lost. (Partially disguising them is perfectly fine, though. If the cheese sauce or ketchup or ranch dressing or whatever helps the vegetables go down, at least your kids know they are enjoying vegetables!) Not that I’ve read either book.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.food-image.com/products/thumb2/fi04717.jpg)