Let’s face it, most of us could stand to eat more vegetables. Especially kids. But, let’s be honest, not only kids. When I look back at my last few days — protein – good; whole grains – good; fruit – good; fats – good; vegetables – OK. Every once in a while I’ll have a veggie free meal (hello – Thursday Pho) and feel guilty about it all day.
When my son was little people would “ooh and aah” about how well he ate. He would eat all his vegetables before touching anything else. He would try any and everything new. He didn’t have a picky bone in his body. And then about six months ago it started. First it was broccoli, and I thought “fine, everyone has a few things that they don’t like.” He was happy enough to eat whatever replacement vegetable I put on his plate. Then went chicken. We eat a lot of chicken so that one was tough. Then squash, sweet potatoes, beef and celery went by the wayside. At that point I realized that my excellent eater, my adventurous foodie was becoming… picky. I always struggled with counselling the parents of picky eaters since I didn’t have much experience with it and now I was being thrown into the picky pot.
All of those foods have remained on the menu — I don’t run a restaurant and one can’t live on turkey slices, carrots and peppers alone. But, they are certainly being consumed in smaller quantities (we try to keep the struggles to a minimum) and I have found myself having to hide vegetables in other foods. This is a slippery slope. I won’t hide all of them – it’s important to me that my kids know that they are eating vegetables; that vegetables are part of a healthy balanced meal. But, since their consumption has gone down, I also want to make sure that they are getting all the healthy benefits of a varied, colourful diet. So, vegetables are always on the plate in their identifiable forms… with a bit more hidden where they would least expect it.
Here are some of my favourite ways to boost veggie intake:
- Squash purée — I put this stuff in everything. Beef stew gets a few tablespoons mixed in, also the bottom of a Shepherd’s Pie. I put it in my gluten free scones and muffins. Mixed into scrambled eggs. You could use sweet potato the same way — I once hid a few scoops in hot chocolate. During pumpkin season, I’ll use those as well.
- Mashed cauliflower — Any time a potato is mashed in my house (white or sweet) it gets mixed half and half with mashed cauliflower. It tops our Shepherd’s Pie; mashed beside my grandmother’s braised beef dish. In the summer I’ll buy purple cauliflower — that’s always a big hit as well.
- Greens in a smoothie — I can usually hide one or two stalks of kale or chard in a smoothie before the colour changes too much.
- Avocado mayo — We use avocado like mayo in almost all of our sandwiches/wraps – mashed up and spread around.
- If I call anything a french fry and serve it with ketchup, my kids will eat it. Roasted sweet potatoes, roasted carrots/parsnips and sometimes even roasted green beans. The ketchup isn’t my favourite, but you gotta give a little to get a little.
- Grated carrot or zucchini in muffins, breads, etc… It’s not a huge amount, but every bit helps. I rarely put sugar in these loaves. I use mashed ripe bananas and some honey. I also switch between grain free paleo muffins and gluten free whole grain muffins.
- Soup — My kids will eat just about anything if it’s cooked in chicken broth. I cut the veggies into tiny pieces so that they are barely identifiable, and add chicken and brown rice. It’s an all-in-one meal.
- Kale chips have always been a hit in my house. I find the key is to cook them at very low temperatures for a long time. That way they stay green and don’t get burnt edges. We can easily go through a giant bunch of kale in one sitting.
So, while the goal is to get my kids to eat more vegetables — guess what? I eat more vegetables too. And, I make sure that I eat all of my vegetables with my kids at the table, so that they see everyone eating a balanced meal. Just a little more balanced than they realize.