INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Getting children to eat their veggies can be difficult, especially when they’ve pledged to stay away from anything green, But a few simple tricks can change the vegetable game in your house.
"It's hard to get kids to eat raw veggies,” says Lori Taylor, author of The Produce Mom blog, a voice for the produce industry. “For me, the challenge is coming up with innovative ways to present the vegetables, because if it looks fun and engaging, then the kids are more likely to eat it."
The Produce Mom’s top tips:
- Create a veggie tray using their favorite characters
- Experiment with veggies they’ve never tried; create a great first impression
- When in doubt, dip it
Character Veggie Trays
Taylor contends broccoli is the most difficult vegetable to get kids to eat in its raw form and encourages parents to try creating character veggie trays. As an example, she assembles broccoli florets in a large circle, emulating the shape of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle face. Taylor configures orange baby carrots to serve as the bandana, similar to the character Michelangelo, then uses black olives for the mouth and cuts of white turnip for the eyes.
Taylor, mother to two sons ages 3 and 6, says the character-themed veggie tray is the only way her boys will eat broccoli and carrots.
“I would waste a bowl of carrots if I just set them on the table, but as soon as the boys see it’s part of Michelangelo’s bandana, they fight over who gets to eat it!”
Experimenting with new veggies
Taylor is the creator of the foodservice program “Find Your Favorite” which debuted in 2012 at Indianapolis Public Schools. It incorporates local heroes in the community who name their favorite fruit or vegetable and encourage school aged children to do the same. As part of the Find Your Favorite program, Taylor goes into local schools to introduce children to vegetables they may have never eaten, particularly turnips.
“I've had great success with getting children to eat turnips in the raw form,” says Taylor. "I've had situations where I've had kids come back for 8 to 12 servings of turnips!"
Taylor’s secret: Use a small cookie-cutter and press shapes into one-quarter inch slices of raw turnip. The raw turnip has a mild flavor and goes great with a flavorful dip.
To use the leftovers, peel the edges and roast them for a great vegetable side.
“Dips are a great way to tame the flavor of vegetables that you have a hard time getting kids to eat,” says Taylor. She recommends the yogurt-based versions of Bolthouse Farms dressings as a convenience item , but also advocates making a simple ranch dip yourself.
Quick and Easy Ranch Dip
1 packet of ranch seasoning
8 oz. greek yogurt
Combine and serve.
Homemade hummus is also simple to make and quick to prepare. Taylor combined these 6 ingredients in less than 90 seconds for a delicious dip:
2 Tbsp. tahini,
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1, 14 oz. can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic (or the equivalent from convenient jars, squeeze bottles)
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Combine tahini and lemon juice into a food processor. Blend for a few seconds to combine. Add chickpeas and garlic, blend again for a few seconds until combined. Then, with the food processor in the continuous “on” position, pour Extra virgin olive oil into the spout. Blend a few more seconds. Salt to taste and serve.
Taylor suggests allowing the produce department to be the one area of the grocery store where you place no restrictions on your children.
“We have a rule in my house: whenever the boys come with me to the grocery store, they’re required to each pick out one fruit and one vegetable,” says Taylor. “The deal I make with them is that I promise to prepare whatever they pick out.”
Taylor encourages busy moms to reach for convenience items in the produce department – not only for their role in simplifying meal time, but also because there are often coupons available for the products.
For a healthier snack to serve as an alternative to greasy potato chips, Taylor suggests Harvest Snaps “Snapea Crisps.” They’re made from 70 percent snap peas and have less fat and sodium than chips. You can find them in the salad toppings section of the grocery store.
"When you're choosing fresh fruits and vegetables for your children, you're making an excellent choice. So always have confidence whenever you choose produce in any form for your children. Have confidence in serving it and know you're making the best choice possible for your family. "
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