If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced the power struggle of getting the kids to eat their vegetables. Of course, it never helps for them to have a certain well-meaning grandparent who will feed them handfuls of chocolate chips and call it “breakfast.” Yes, my mother did that.
My children have gone so far as to pick the SPICES from their dinner because they spotted something GREEN (gasp!). So over the years I have discovered many ways to covertly include the good stuff while making them think they’re getting away with only eating the yummy stuff. I am a Veggie Ninja.
First, don’t think that every meal MUST HAVE a hot pile of steamed lima beans or other ick-face-inducing vegetable. There’s nothing wrong with serving up the veggies they like, and on the same token – who says you can’t serve fruit instead? A bowl of grapes, applesauce, and apple or orange slices all make fantastic side dishes at supper time and help fulfill the daily requirements.
Personally, I think it’s more important THAT they eat fruit and veggies than WHICH fruit and veggies they eat. You may disagree, and that’s ok. When in doubt, there is one thing you can’t argue, the more the better, right? Right.
So, first tackle the list of veggies they’ll eat without complaint. Now, identify the ones they won’t. The veggies you don’t have to hide should be prominently displayed every chance you get. It’s the ones they hate that you have to be sneaky about.
So say your kids hate broccoli. They sing the “EWWWWWW” chorus when you tell them what’s on tonight’s menu. OK, get out your nun chucks, and the food processor. Grab some cauliflower and a couple carrots too if you feel daring.
The trick is to make sure the kids are off doing their own thing while you’re cooking supper. Drop those veggies into the chopper and grind them down to tiny little chunks. Now add them to your favorite spaghetti sauce. After all, what kid would turn down spaghetti? It’s that simple. THEY WILL NEVER KNOW. I do this to my kids all the time, and I haven’t been busted yet.
Speaking of spaghetti, there’s a wonderful vegetable that even the littlest, most finicky eater will get a kick out of. Spaghetti squash is easy to prepare, and has such an unobtrusive taste and fun crunch, they will love it in spite of themselves. Grab one from your local market, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and add salt and pepper. Bake it flesh side down on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. If you can stick a fork in it and have it come out easily, it’s done. Allow the squash to cool for a couple minutes, until you can handle it without burning your hands. Take a fork and scrape the flesh into a serving bowl, it will come away from the skin in noodle-like strings. One medium sized squash will more than feed a family of four. Add your sauce and serve with garlic toast for a new family favorite.
Don’t fall for those products that boast “a full serving of vegetables” inside their overly-salty, canned, convenience food. You can do better than that. All you need is your Ninja skills and a few good recipes. Add bacon to your brussel sprouts, or dijon mustard. Try baked sweet potato fries instead of tater tots. Is your kid a chocoholic? Make them a chocolate zucchini cake. When all else fails, try a glass of V8 Fusion. It takes like the juice they love, and they mean it when they say it contains an entire serving of fruit AND vegetables.
Alright parents, go forth and put your new Veggie Ninja skills to use. Let me know how it turns out!