Roasted vegetables

Be a Vegetable Cheerleader

So your kids won’t touch a vegetable?

And corn is a grain. Not a vegetable. Potatoes more like pasta than spinach.

Back in May of 2012 when nutritional change slapped me and my family in the face with a “come to Jesus moment,” our vegetable Fun broccoli snackrepertoire consisted of corn, potatoes, steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower, peas, green beans, and rarely a raw baby carrot or salad. Six or seven vegetables–and two don’t count anymore as vegetables. Our diet was a slave to grains and starches.

A SLAVE TO GRAINS AND STARCHES.  The beige stuff.

Particularly wheat and potatoes. Cereal for breakfast. Sandwich with chips for lunch. Lasagna for supper.

Eight months of diligence, persistence, stubbornness, yelling, threatening, screaming, spanking, sobbing, one run-away attempt and we are finally reaping vegetable rewards!  No, I’m lying. Eight months of diligence, persistence, and sheer determination. Coaxing, encouraging, educating, setting an example, and refusing to budge.

Vegetable-eating -wise, we are cruising where I want to be.  Eight months of angst for a lifetime of health.

I stopped accepting, “I don’t like it” and started dishing out “Tough.  Eat it anyway.  It’s all you get ’til you eat it [or three bites or two bites or however happy of a mood I was or was not in that day].”

What to try? What to do?  A large vegetable repertoire is a must for good health.  Every darn nutrition/diet book I’ve been reading/researching on the beach the last week has screamed that at me.  Everybody agrees.  Vegetables.  But getting the kids (and even some finicky husbands) to eat them may require the stubborness of a donkey, the creativity of an artist,  the persistance of a child, and the dedication of a good mom.

My eight-month, multi-modal approach (please don’t roll your eyes if sometimes what I say is completely opposite of what I just said.  Sometimes I had to make a complete 180.  I had to go left to go right.  But eventually, after eight months, we’re moving in ONE direction):

Roasted vegetables1. Make vegetables frequently, at least 2-3 times daily.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. We are the extreme, but we eat carrot soup, squash soup, or roasted vegetables for breakfast.  Kids have to see vegetables over and over to even consider starting to eat them.  In the beginning of change, put all the “snubbed” vegetables in a vegetable soup with lots of carrots and peas.  They’ll usually go for this, although don’t fret if they pull out the Brussel sprout even from the soup initially!

Suggestion for the lunchbox: Cook the child’s most favorite vegetable, and put it on a stick or the cutest-cute toothpick. Pop it in the lunchbox. This would work for cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, carrots, and beets, likely among others. But raw vegetables can get REALLY boring, and may even be hard on your child’s stomach if they complain of tummy aches or have bloating issues. So try sending cooked vegetables on a stick. Add a dip if they’d like, even for cooked veggies!

2.  Mom and Dad eat vegetables and rave to each other how good they are.

For example, oven-roasting vegetables was a novel preparation method for us at the beginning of our vegetable change. My husband liked them so much this way, that every time he took a bite initially, he complimented me on them and ate them all up–like, maybe five times each meal the first week or so!  How could a kid not want to check that out?

3. Prepare them in ways you know they’ll eat them.

My 8 year-old won’t eat roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus, but she will eat them steamed. She asks for seconds on roasted brussel sprouts, but won’t eat them boiled or steamed. It’s okay! Certain foods have certain tastes and chemicals that may be affected by the way they’re prepared. Even raw. Kids have a sensitive palate for all of this, which may or may not be something that stays with them for life. Don’t “poo-poo” them. Encourage them. Be a vegetable cheerleader!  Work to discover the ways they will eat them as you broaden and encourage them to try the ways they won’t normally eat them!

4. Allow them to have a “yucky” vegetable veto–but make it look like you won’t take no for an answer until they have one taste. And then show how magnanimous you are by cutting off the smallest bit you can and see if they will try it. Or tell them they get “one vegetable veto” a week or a day or a month or every three days (whatever you think will therapeutically help them mentally) and let them choose whether it’s the roasted butternut squash, the sauteed peppers, or the spinach salad.

5. Make vegetables in a variety of ways.Zucchini pizza

It will take months, but you will figure out which vegetables your family likes prepared in which way. Don’t despair, and don’t give up! Try lots of vegetables in lots of ways!  Raw.  Marinated.  Steamed plain.  Boiled plain.  Soups.  Casseroles.  Roasted.  Grilled.  Mashed.  Chopped.  And again, any that were not liked, save them and shove them in  soup.

6. If they’re loading up on fruits for snacks, require a vegetable before they eat a fruit.

My kids have free access to fruit and vegetables. They nearly always choose the fruit. Even with fruit, I think a little bit about the sugar involved. So, when I see them reaching for another orange, I’ll ask them, “Have you had your vegetable today? Before you can eat that orange, you have to have either some celery or a carrot.” It works for us.  It makes it easier if you don’t mandate the carrot be peeled and sliced.  I wash them well and let them eat them whole.  Baby carrots are boring.  We do nature’s real deal.

7. Work them into casseroles and soups.

I’m not a big fan of hiding. I try never to lie.  When I put carrots in my spaghetti sauce to make it sweeter, my kids know it. But I do work vegetables into lots of foods.  Hide them in there if you must.  Try not to lie.  Exaggeration is allowed–“Oh, my!  Yes, there are really sweet, fresh carrots in there!” or “Oh.  Yep.  There are leaves in this casserole!”  “Leaves” is a choice word over spinach or chard.

Try a new vegetables8. Pick out new vegetables to try, and let the kid choose from the supermarket bins.

That’s how we learned we liked artichokes. My 7 year-old wanted to buy one. I said, “No. I don’t know how to cook it, and I don’t really have time to be looking it up today or tomorrow. The last one we bought to try went to waste.”  A lady shopper beside me was smirking. “It’s not hard to cook. Just put it in your steamer basket until it opens up. Pull off the leaves and eat the white stuff off of the end with butter.” Well, that sounded easy enough. We tried them and loved them with salt. No butter–we’ve got some intolerances to dairy I’m sorting out.

9. Put the vegetables on beautiful plates.

Pull out great-grandma’s china. Or that wedding china. What could be a better purpose than this noble endeavor of getting your kids to eat more vegetables?  Kids LOVE aesthetics.  All that glitters is gold to them.  It’s all about presentation.  Lure them in.

10. Feed them vegetables first.

If they’re nosing around you as you cook, get the vegetable ready STAT. Set the table quickly, and put the vegetables on the plate. “Go ahead and eat. I’m finishing up the hamburgers now.” When you’re really hungry, most anything tastes better. Don’t mis the window! Capitalize on that hungry moment to get the vegetables eaten!  This is the time to forget  proprieties about not eating until everyone is at the table or getting all your food on the plate before you taste it.  Get the vegetables on there early and let them go at it while you finish the rest of dinner!

11. Educate yourself on vitamins and minerals in vegetables and what they’re good for.  Kids love random facts.

Have some one liners to coach your kids on, and soon they’ll be asking you, “What’s this one good for?”  And remember, words like arthritis, heart disease, cancer, etc mean NOTHING to your kids.

“These carrots have sugar packaged in a good way for your body to get energy, and also doctors say the beta-carotene in them helps your eyes see at night and keeps your skin smooth and not all wrinkled up like an elephant’s skin!”

“These [kale] leaves give you calcium to keep your bones strong so you can run well!  And also has some omega-3s to keep your joints from aching!  Cool, eh?”

“Well, this broccoli is a power food!  It has folate to help babies in mommies’ tummies get a strong, healthy backs and nerves [reduces neural tube defects], and it has lots of vitamin C to help you keep from getting a runny, snotty nose (aka cold).  And it has lots of nutrients to help your body heal up all its cells that get hurt fighting to keep your body healthy every day!”

12.  Go to the mall and point out the people eating ice cream, French fries, and soda– but no “real” vegetables.

13. Give a reward for vegetables eaten.

My kids informed me they learned to like vegetables when I told them they could have something sweet afterward, like the muffins or cookies I make.  I had forgotten I used to have to do that.  But, I guess I did.

Start small pieces of vegetables14.  Start small.

Yes, I want them to eat more vegetables, but when vegetables are still “strange foods”, small servings are best, one or two bites is probably enough–not a huge helping.

15.  Remove the grains and pototoes.

Ouch.

Doubtful kids will consider vegetables if they have access to crackers, Triscuits, potato chips, Goldfish, bagel chips, corn chips, tortillas, cheese puffs, mashed potatoes, French fries, and rice cakes.

Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to do the hard thing.  And taking out grains and starches will bring A LOT of fussing.  A LOT of hate stares.  A LOT of strong language (“I hate this new way we eat.”  “When I’m a mom, my kids will get crackers and cookies every day.”  “I don’t want to be healthy.”).

16.  Take advantage of cartoons.

A great time to try to pull up old episodes of Bugs Bunny and Popeye somewhere so you can show off carrots and spinach.

I think that’s about all we have done, and I’m tickled.

Eat well.  Live well!  Feel well!

Best wishes!

Terri

10 thoughts on “Be a Vegetable Cheerleader

  1. Jackie

    What a bunch of wonderful ideas! I wish I had my stepdaughter more often. She won’t touch any vegetables 😦 I’m guilty of “hiding” vegetables in her food. There’s just not much you can do with a grand total of 60 hours over the course of 2 weeks. All of my work gets undone the day after I’ve made progress! When I have children with me all of the time, this will not be the case!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      True. I hear you. And no pity for hiding if it gets the nutrients in! My kids just know it’s in there and thankfully don’t care anymore. However the folate, anti-oxidants, magnesium, etc get in there, they provide better ability for the body to function! Your step-daughter seems lovely, and you seem like a great mom. Hope it’s a good day today!

      Reply
      1. Jackie

        Thanks 😊. I always say “I’m not Emma’s Mom, but I’m a Mom” because I’m adamant that I am in no way, shape, or form her mother while she is here. I’m her stepmother! Anyways, a lot of people don’t get that. It gave me little butterflies when I read you calling me a Mom.

  2. homemakingwithheart

    Oh I can’t find your ‘About’ page to post this. Am I visually challenged today? 🙂
    I have nominated you for a Beautiful Mama Blog Award. I enjoy reading your journey. Hope you feel blessed today. – Victoria

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Oooh! Thank you! I’d better put on some make-up! Would my “About” page be the same as the one titled “What’s Your Story?” (I’m blog/computer challenged–every day!) I, too, enjoy your blog, and when the snow melts, I may be posting questions (lots of them) about the best way to do this and that in the garden. Yours looks so nice and fruitful. Blessings upon you and yours!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: How to Promote Real Food to Kids | thehomeschoolingdoctor

  4. Teri

    I am contemplating adding cold potatoes back into my diet after over 2 years of SCD for ulcerative colitis that has been under control without drugs for almost a year now. What are your thoughts on resistant starch?

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Teri–sorry for the delayed response. I just recently had a baby and we have family visiting.

      I think resistant starch for most people is beneficial, and I even think probably necessary by design. However, you and I know most all things can be detrimental in some given person nutritionally, particularly with the greatly disrupted gut flora we have in today’s nutritional world. Someone who has achieved success as you have with your ulcerative colitis must be a bit cautious about “rocking the boat”–but if you’re like me you want to be able to branch out your diet a little without consequences (such as flares, food intolerances, possible nutritional deficiencies because certain foods are being left out, etc) and that’s where the benefit of RS (and its subsequent butyrate production) come in. The effects may help a bowel that is being kept in check by diet to be able to tolerate more and actually heal more. (I’m assuming you’ve read my butyrate series posts available from the main menu.)

      So, in my mind, resistant starch is valuable to try to include in a diet. Even on SCD there are foods with resistant starch, though. Navy beans, lentils, and peas all have resistant starch. Have you been consuming those? If so, how did they go? Although, I do think the legumes are harder to digest than roots so that may not be a good indicator. And, SCD and GAPS weren’t designed to be forever diets, and those authors advocated for introducing new foods once goals were achieved. My thoughts when I start adding: Start low, go slow, and write it down to know. (I am a huge advocate of logging food and all symptoms.) For potatoes, I peeled mine initially to make sure I wasn’t getting too many lectins present at the peel interface. And I have taken to green bananas and a bit of plantain in a green smoothie.

      That’s my book. 🙂 That’s my story. 🙂 Let me know what you think about all that!

      Reply
  5. carnationcat

    Such a comprehensive list of ideas! I love it. I’ll share it. Often!! =) Thankfully I had parents who started early and were adventurous eaters, and we all like our veggies. But I see others struggling and I’d love to help. My sister read somewhere that you have to expose a child to a new flavor about 15 times (if I recall) before they learn to accept it (if there was any trouble to begin with), so it’s vital for parents not to give up after 3-4 times. My sister’s children are examples of success, because they eat virtually all veggies with no difficulty and great enjoyment. Each of us seems to have a problem vegetable or two (mine was green peppers when I was growing up), but overall, the nutrients are going down with pleasure!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Carnation Cat!

      Nice “talkin'” with you! I agree with what you said. I’ve read a number, too, on how many times it takes to adjust to a flavor. I don’t know about the specific number, but I sure can vouch that gentle and repeated introduction eventually wins kids over. I have a friend whose son hates steamed asparagus but loves it roasted (or something like that). One of my own daughters used to detest broccoli. Now, she still says she doesn’t want it, but then I have her eat a piece—and she then always wants more and compliments me!

      I think it has just become too easy for kids to say they don’t like something. Then parents go with that and opportunities are slammed shut. So glad your family is/has had great success!

      Terri

      Reply

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