“Yuck!” “Ew.” “What is that?” These are typical responses I get from many of my pediatric patients when I ask them to try new vegetables. Generally following their responses I ask, “When was the last time you tried “X” vegetable?” The response is almost always, “I don’t remember.”
Getting kids to eats veggies is no easy task, but a vital part of healthy nutrition. Healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Further, fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. In accordance with the national effort to promote a healthy weight, fruits and vegetables are also naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.
Still, the question remains, how do we get our children to eat their vegetables? A study out of Stanford recently found that teaching kids about nutrition boosted their intake of fruits and veggies. Further, even very young children benefited from a conceptual framework that encourages them to understand why eating a variety of foods is healthy researchers said. In turn, kids eat more vegetables by choice (1). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a helpful fruit and veggie calculator based on age, sex and activity level: http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/howmany.html
Below are 4 unconventional veggie recipes kids will LOVE.
Lettuce Wraps: 30 minutes, 4 servings.
1 pound ground turkey or 90% lean ground meat
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 scallions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves (peeled, minced)
1 tsp. ginger
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
8 soft lettuce leaves (try butter!)
2 cucumbers, sliced vertically, remove skin.
2 cups fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro)
- Place skillet on medium high heat. Add oil, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Stir about 2-3 minutes.
- Add turkey or beef, turn heat up to medium-high. Break up meat with spatula until cooked and browning, about 5 minutes.
- Add soy sauce, vinegar, stirring for 1-2 minutes more.
- Taste check! Make sure seasoned well.
- Fill lettuce leaves with mixture, and cucumbers enjoy!
Zucchini Pancakes: 35 minutes, 4 servings.
2 medium-size zucchini, makes 3 cups shredded
2 eggs, large, beaten
2/3 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten-free adjust measurements accordingly)
¼ – ½ cup Parmesan cheese, crumbled
4 scallions, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
- Place shredded zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Place colander in a bowl. Press down on zucchini to remove excess liquid. Stir and repeat. Discard liquid.
- Mix zucchini in bowl with eggs, flour, cheese, scallions and mix well.
- Place skillet on medium high heat and add oil. Scoop blobs of zucchini mixture onto skillet, spread into circles, about 2” wide and ¼“ thick.
- Cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Repeat. Add a dollop of sour cream if you would like.
1 pound carrots scrubbed and shredded.
1 ½ cup raisins
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. mustard (Dijon is best)
¼ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
- Mix all ingredients in bowl.
- Taste check. Does it need more lemon, mustard or seasoning? Make adjustments.
- Serve immediately.
Zucchini Chips. 35 minutes. 4 servings, ¾ cup each.
2 small zucchini cut ¼ inch-thick slices
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. milk (1% or fat-free)
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and garlic powder into a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
- Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.
- Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray and place rack on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Other Fun Ways to Include Veggies:
-Dip Away. Try introducing veggies with a fun humus dip. If you have Ranch lovers, mix a dry spice packet (Try an organic dry Ranch mix) with 0% or 2% Greek yogurt (acts as a sour cream) for a healthier alternative.
-Kabobs are a hit. Use fresh, cut up veggies (broccoli, cucumbers, carrots) paired with low-fat cheese cubes, and allow children to make their own kabobs. Add fruit if you would like. Children are more likely to try something if they have made it themselves.
-Re-name favorites. Brussels sprouts can become “superman’s food” and carrots can be renamed “X ray vision bites.” Relating healthy food to fun things the child already loves and turning it into a game is a great way to get kids to take additional bites.
Skylar’s Bottom Line: Make food fun and get them involved in the preparation process. DO NOT let it become a power struggle. Enforce the “one bite” rule. Research consistently shows that children who have initially rejected a food must be exposed to it at least 8-10 times for the food to be accepted. The “one bite rule,” requires the child to try at least one solid mouthful of a rejected food whenever it is served.