The Standard American Diet does not allow room for the number of veggies that the human body needs. It’s not because there is not an abundance of vegetables to be had, It’s just that busy lives and unhealthy habits can make it tough. Not to mention the fact that many people just don’t like vegetables. Or at least they don’t think they do. Here are some simple tips to get more vegetables in your family’s diet.
#1 Make them available between meals. This is one that my daughter incorporates into her children’s diet. She has found that simply creating a veggie and dip tray and setting it out results in a delightful surprise. Her kids swarm the table, they gobble up the vegetables and she is happy knowing that they are eating a healthful snack.
What causes this phenomenon when kids won’t eat vegetables at meal time? There are two theories:
The first is that there is dip involved. Kids, and adults, love dip. You can really amplify the nutritional value and offer hummus as a dip. Good old-fashioned ranch dressing is an option too.
The second theory is that if mom and dad aren’t forcing the kids to eat the vegetables, as they might at mealtime, then the veggies are more appealing. If it’s offered as a snack without any expectations then kids dive right in.
#2 Mix them in the meal. A few years ago Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, wrote a book. It was a cookbook about pureeing vegetables and adding them to meals. It’s a sneaky approach to making sure children get their vegetables. And the recipes are delicious. Now Jessica didn’t invent the strategy; she just made it easy to access some pretty good tips and recipes.
You can adopt this method as you see fit. For example, add purees to pancakes, muffins, sauces and even meatloaf for more veggies at mealtime. You can even add them to a smoothie – just make sure they don’t turn the smoothie green! I even add cauliflower to my mashed potatoes and no one is the wiser.
#3 Offer several options at mealtime. One of the objections to the puree method is that if the veggies are hidden, children don’t become accustomed to actually eating vegetables. Jessica and parents around the world suggest also serving a side dish or two of vegetables at mealtime. This is a great approach even if you’re not pureeing your veggies and sneaking them in. For example, along with a burger or chicken thigh, offer green beans and a salad. Make your children “try” both.
#4 Remember that it takes time to like a food. Experts tell us that it takes three to seven tastes for a person to decide if they like a food. That means you have to serve Brussels sprouts to your kids seven times and let them taste the veggies before they decide. Often a no-pressure attitude works best. Simply ask your kid to try the new veggie. They don’t have to eat a full serving. When kids are allowed to develop their own taste, they’re more likely to like a vegetable than if they’re forced to eat them.
#5 Make it tasty. Let’s face it – some vegetables don’t taste very good. However, there are things you can do to make them tasty. For example, you may not like green beans steamed, but if they’re sautéed with a few almonds they taste amazing. When it comes to eating vegetables, don’t be afraid to doctor them a bit. Use spices. Use a bit of healthy fat like olive or coconut oil to add flavor. Add nuts. Add cheese sauces sometimes too. And offer dips and dressings when the vegetables are raw or in salad form.
Getting your family to eat more veggies may take some advanced planning. Make sure they’re offered several times a day and in several forms. Give your child, and yourself, time to decide if you like a vegetable. Go ahead and be sneaky with the veggies sometimes too. When it comes to your family’s health, vegetables matter.