As I mentioned in my last post, as a vegetable farmer, I’m always on a mission to get more produce and diversity into my kids’ diets. I credit my own mom with influencing my approach on this, as she always said “A little of everything, not a lot of one thing.” I’ve never forgotten that and take it to heart as a parent.
Though our farm produces functional foods from our organic vegetables, for kids, I’m more inclined to promote fresh vegetables. Save the powders and pills for later in life when other aspects interfere with getting enough foliage. Plants need to be a big part of a child’s daily diet, so I’ve tested and tried multiple ways to ensure that mine grow to love them. Here are five of my most dependable tricks:
1. Take your kids to the grocery store
I know, I get it: it can be crazy. But if you include them in picking out the veg and explain how the butchery and produce section differ from the chip and cookie aisle, you’ll set them up to understand their own authority over their choices.
2. Get your kids on the prep line
Buy whole veg and ask your kids to help you prepare it and clean up afterward. Let them taste what a washed, raw vegetable taste like prior to cooking.
3. Spice it up
Let them smell the different spices in your cabinet and show them how to shake those spices into the food you cook. Let them taste food during preparation and ask them to help you decide to add more spice or leave it alone. (Every veg can get help with a little chicken or vegetable stock and a sprinkle of cheese, too.)
4. Taste the rainbow
Switch up the veg as often as you can so kids get a variety and see the different shapes, colors, and sizes out there.
5. Monkey see monkey do
Eat the veggies with your kids. Turn veggie consumption into a game if you need to add a little sizzle. In our home, I will wrestle with my kids and whoever ate the most vegetable beats Daddy. They also compete in a “strong man” competition in which they try to pick me up (or lift my legs over their head), and whoever ate the most veggies at dinner wins bragging rights in the house. It usually gets a lot of laughs at least.
I feel deeply that our job as parents is to educate our kids to know how to make good choices for when we’re no longer there to make choices for them. If we drive home the nutritional benefits of consuming plants at every meal, that truth will never leave them. More than a strategy for feeding my family, that’s just a strategy for raising kids in general: to teach them the skills to make their own decisions. (Plus, a little fun never hurts.)
Here’s an easy recipe for veggies that everyone in my house loves. Believe me: when this veg is on point, it’s hard to beat.
Unbeatable Barbecued Veg
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Cut 2-3 heads of broccoli, cauliflower or zucchini (but not all together) into even-sized florets and drop them in an even layer across a 9×13-inch disposable aluminum pan.
Season with salt and pepper (or variations of salts and peppers). Add enough chicken stock to coat the bottom of the pan to about 1/4 inch. (I’ve noticed broccoli absorbs more of the liquid than cauliflower, so I use a little less with cauliflower.) Tent the pan with aluminum foil and crimp down the sides, which will allow steam to poach the veggies.
Throw the pan on the grill over medium flame, about 300 degrees. When you start to smell the veg cooking, that means it’s al dente: remove the pan from heat, peel back a side of the foil and drain any excess moisture left in the pan. Lastly, add a sprinkle of cheddar (or, for zucchini, try Parmesan) and reseal the foil. Once the cheese is melted, serve the veg up and watch it disappear.