Are vegetables the bane of everyone’s existence? Particularly well meaning parents?
I remember the rule was if you don’t finish dinner you can’t leave the table. And for a long time green beans had me sitting at the table, picking them apart, staring at the reflection of the tv in the aquarium. I swore never to do that to my own kids.
Now is where I’m struggling with whether I’m a hypocrite. I’ve always believed (at least in my adult life) that food is good and it should taste good and always be an enjoyable experience. But see, I’m a mom (or to be more exact a step mom, but feels like the same thing to me), and apparently my definition of an enjoyable experience is different than that of the kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t eat green beans, and I’m not really a fan of broccoli, and if the carrots are cooked on their own and sitting on the side I probably won’t eat them. On the other hand, put it in a casserole, or a stir fry and I’ve grown accustomed to eating it. The kids and I seem to have different views of vegetables, so here’s a run down of the common veggies in my house.
- Green Beans: I hate em, the kids love them (irony eh?). I don’t mind them raw, which is why I planted green beans, it’s just that my harvest at this point is two green beans.
- Peas: These are my favorite, I love them raw, I love them frozen, I love the cooked, by themselves, in a casserole, in the pod and out. K1 and C will eat them. K2 (who can swallow pills) will swish them around in her mouth for 5 to 10 minutes before swallowing (with a mouth full of water).
- Broccoli: My husband and I don’t care for it, I’ll eat it if I have to. K1 loves it, C will sometimes eat it on pizza, and K2 I’m not sure about.
- Carrots: I used to go around eating carrots from the side of my mouth saying “what’s up doc?”. The kids will all eat them raw. K2 refuses to have them cooked whether in a casserole or out, K1 and C will eat them any way I’ve prepared them. I’ll only eat them cooked in a casserole or stir fry.
- Corn: It’s not a vegetable! I’m sorry, it’s a grain! I can’t budge on this. K1 adores corn, C likes it, and K2 says she hates it, but she likes it on the cob I believe. She’s also been introduced to a sweeter corn that she likes frozen, but says she doesn’t like cooked (though she’s never eaten it cooked).
- Lettuce: Everyone seems to eat it fine, except K2 who worked herself into a fit if she’s required to put it on her taco. That being said, I’m not sure if C likes it, he rarely eats it. I prefer the more leafy green lettuces, like spring mixes, but the rest tend to lean towards iceberg. Yaay, fibrous water.
- Onions: I only use onions for flavor so it usually isn’t an issue.
- Green pepper: Still an unknown in this house for me at least. K1 apparently like to eat it raw. Anytime I use it in cooking I mince it up.
- Celery: Similarly an unknown. I don’t usually have the kids say “hey can I have a stalk of celery to eat?
- Potatoes: I struggle with this one. It’s more starch than anything unless you have the skin. I love potatoes, mash em fry em, bake em, dice em, slice em, you get the idea. The kids don’t like mashed potatoes much, but they’ll eat french fries. And supposedly they like sweet potato fries.
- Tomatoes: I don’t know how much the kids like em fresh. Though, except K2, they’ll eat things with tomato sauce.
So, a run down of the kids:
- My husband doesn’t like broccoli or seeing onions. He’ll eat other things mostly, but when it comes down to it, he’s pretty picky. Hey, I came from a very picky family, so it’s normal.
- C knows what to do to stay under the radar. I assume he’s eating vegetables, but I don’t always see them. But, unlike K2 who makes her displeasure known and very vocal, he stays hush hush. So either he’s eating them or he’s not, but he’s not complaining about eating them.
- K1 will eat almost anything you put in front of her. She’s awesome like that. She even asked for mushroom and broccoli on her pizza.
- K2 will eat almost nothing you put in front of her. Well, sort of. She hates anything red, only raw carrots and she’ll eat green beans. She tries to bargain to eat carrots instead of whatever we are serving. She’ll have good eyesight by the time she grows up.
We had an interesting battle with K2 one day. I suppose I should explain the house rules regarding food.
1. You must try a bite of the dinner that’s been prepared. If you don’t like it you can make something else.
2. If you don’t eat dinner, you can head to bed or to your room for quiet time. You’ll miss out on whatever activities are planned.
3. If you don’t eat the vegetables (which in the past we’ve negotiated on the amount that had to be eaten), depending on how generous we are you may or may not get dessert. Yah, I know it hasn’t been a firm limit. Usually for the kids, it was worth the risk.
So about the battle with K2. She had to eat 6 peas in order for her vegetable requirement to be met. Six peas. Only SIX! Recall that she is able to swallow pills bigger than peas. We aren’t requiring her to chew them, just to somehow have them make their way to her stomach.
We weren’t bargaining, or trading things out this day. We decided that this was battle we were going to fight. Fooslish probably. But I wasn’t going to wait around for her to finish eating her peas, or force her to stay at the table. We present the bargain. Or to be more precise, the consequence. Yes, I know we have the normal, badly adhered to consequence of no dessert, but we were tired of the bargaining.
“You can eat the 6 peas now, or you can have a full serving of whatever vegetable we serve every day from now on. And a full serving is half a cup. There’s no substitutions, no bargaining for a different amount. If you don’t eat it, then no dessert if we have any.”
We show how much is half a cup. She has about 10 minutes to decide. She chooses full serving of vegetables from now on.
Imagine her surprise when the next day at dinner next to her plate is the measuring cup full of vegetables. Carrots the first time, then peas, then green beans. She missed out on ice cream one day, but we weren’t fighting about it. She sulked and tried to look pitiful, tried to bargain, but the answer was simple “you chose, you know what you chose”. She’s pretty good at remembering to grab the measuring cup on her own, I think she likes feeling special, though sometimes she struggles to eat it all.
I guess here’s my goal. I want the kids to consciously eat one vegetable a day. I know we’re supposed to have what 4-5 servings? Ya, they don’t get that, but If they eat one vegetable, know what it is, fully aware of vegetable status, then I’ll worry about the rest.
Here’s my tip: sneak the vegetables into food. Your tools? A food processor or blender. Effectively take whatever vegetable(s) you have on hand, mince or blend to a mush and toss in. I usually use carrots, celery, onion,green pepper, or a mix of them. Sometimes its helpful to precook the mince veggie mush so that it is softer and practically dissolves into whatever you put it in. Here are some things that hide veggies well:
- Any meal that uses ground meat. Add the vegetable mix while browning the meat. It also add some bulk to make the meat go further. Try using onions, or green peppers if you want some added flavor, or celery or carrots if you don’t want that. See my Time Saver post on precooking and freezing ground meat.
- Sauces: spaghetti sauce is especially adept at hiding vegetables. If you add meat, even easier. Depending on how tolerant your kids (or you and your spouse/roommate etc) is, will depend on how large the pieces are. If they are zero tolerance regarding chunks, make sure you precook the veggies mash and blend the pieces to almost a liquid or smoothie texture.
- Salsa: Salsa already has some vegetables in it, so if your kids like to eat it awesome! If not try to blend the salsa getting rid of the large chunks. When doing this you can add extra vegetables that you’ve precooked. Also, recipes that use salsa for flavor can be blended with more vegetables, such as the Skillet Salsa Chicken.
- Casseroles: Ideally, casseroles are where kids see and eat the vegetable, but you can make them either smaller or invisible if necessary.
- Pizza: In the crust (where you can also hide some whole grains), in the sauce, or under the cheese.
- Icecream or smoothies or popsicles: Say what? If you make homemade icecream or smoothies or even fruit posicles you can add any of the “5 Magic Veggies”. Carrots, cabbage, yellow squash, zucchini, and spinach when added in reasonable amounts often go unnoticed. Be aware that there might be some color changing. So if you want to make a vanilla ice cream with spinach, you might want to dye the icecream green. But for things like a strawberry smoothie or even a chocolate milkshake, the drink will only be a little darker in color.
- Rice: If you make it small enough, onion and celery go unnoticed in rice, but also add phenomenal flavor. If you don’t mind the color, bell peppers also work nicely.
On a final note, our kids love the Fruitables, V8 Fusion and Aldi’s Blendz drinks. They have the full serving of mixed fruit and vegetables, but taste like fruit juice. If they don’t quite like them, or if you want to integrate it more, make pancakes, but instead of water use the juice. Our kids love orange juice flavored pancakes.
Sometimes we just have to admit defeat and do whatever we can to get those fruits and vegetables in our children.