Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The VEGGIE war

It’s the age-old question for parents: How do we get our kids to eat vegetables? I get asked all the time. And to be honest - I didn't really have the answer. There’s bribery. There’s trickery. There’s all out war. But I’m not made of money, I’m really bad at lying, and going toe-to-toe with a three year-old is something I’m not emotionally or physically prepared for — Chase is freakishly strong. Thanks to Sarah Matheny aka Mama Pea, here are some of her tried-and-true techniques to get kids excited for dinner, peas and all.

1) LET THEM CHOOSE: It’s not a new concept that kids like to be in control, considering we’re usually the ones calling the shots. So it can be exciting to take a trip to the produce department and have permission to pick a new fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. The deal is: They get to choose whatever they want but only if everyone in the family agrees to try it. And yes, that means you may have to down a turnip or two yourself.

2) LET THEM COOK: Like with shopping, kids get excited about being involved in making their meals. Offer build-your-own pasta bowls, salads, or stir fries. If you arrange an assortment of veggies in small bowls and let your kids get creative, it’s amazing what they might try.

3) SHUN THE CAN: Most people grow up thinking they don’t like green beans because they've only ever eaten them canned. But fresh veggies taste far different (and in my opinion, better) than their canned counterparts. Hit farmers markets or shop for sales on fresh produce, and your kids might actually eat what they otherwise thought was “yucky” from a can.

4) MAKE IT A GAME: Everyone knows you can call broccoli “trees,” but did you know that carrots help give you super vision? So super that you can see through walls? Your kid didn’t know that either, but he or she will have fun trying.

5) CLOSE THE KITCHEN - EXCEPT FOR VEGGIES: In Mama Pea's house, the cupboards are closed between meals, aside from a planned snack. If the kids are still hungry, they know that the produce drawers are always open and ready for the picking. If they’re truly hungry, they’ll eat that carrot or celery stick, and they can even get it themselves.

6) SAUCE IT UP: Find a healthy sauce you approve of and that your kids enjoy, and let them use it liberally. Be it ranch, hummus, or peanut sauce — dip, drizzle, and mix it in, and your kids will be eating veggies you never dreamed of.

7) BE A MONKEY: Monkey see, monkey do. If you don’t eat your veggies, your kid doesn’t stand a chance. Model the behavior you want to see from them. Load up your plate with the green stuff and show them how it’s done. 8) TAKE A FIELD TRIP: Again, kids love the hands-on approach. Visit a u-pick field or weekly Farmer's Market and let your kids go to town on green beans, snap peas, and zucchini. They might not even make it out of the field before they have a tummy full of the good stuff.

9) REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT: Kids’ tastes are constantly changing and developing. Don’t give up after the first try. It may take using every single one of these tips a dozen times before they become willing accomplices. But since you are eating your veggies too, you should have all the stamina you need to stick with it.

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