Health Hack #30 - How I Get My Kids To Eat Vegetables
Hey gang. RFE co-owner, John, is taking the reins for the Health Hack this week. From time to time you might notice this blog takes form in the 1st person. Sometimes it helps that we recount our own real life experiences to share insight or get our point across. This happens to be one of those times. As quarantine drags on, it’s important to hold strong in both our own diets and those of our children. With that being said, I wanted to share a few personal hacks that I’ve used to keep my young, often finicky, kids eating right.
I’ve heard many parents speak about having trouble getting their kids to eat vegetables. I’ve certainly experienced this with my children. There’s no shortage of encouragement for kids to consume vegetables among popular media, kid’s shows, and children’s books. However, I’ve yet to encounter much specific and practical advice in achieving this goal. Since I have insanely convenient access to delicious vegetables (via Real Food At Home), I obviously try to push them on my kids. But it’s not always a success. I’ve learned a few tricks that work in my household and figured I’d share them in hopes that I could help others get their kids excited about more colorful and diverse meals. These tools obviously come in handy if you’re the parent of a child, but they’re also worthwhile for anyone in the company of young children, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, etc.
Kids Have Taste Buds, Too
I read Weston A Price’s piece on “Nourishing a Growing Baby” soon after my first child was born. It resonated deeply. One tidbit that stuck with me is the suggestion to be generous with cooking fat (butter or coconut oil) and to not forget a pinch of salt when preparing food for babies. Both ingredients are touted to improve digestion and the fat to provide additional nutrients.
My wife, Kelly, took the reins on our first shot at vegetable driven baby food: pureed broccoli soup. We simmered organic broccoli in bone broth until it was tender. Then we blended it with grass-fed butter and salt. I was blown away when I tasted it. I had a bowl of it for dinner. Our daughter Olivia devoured it, too. It became a weekly staple.
Beyond the potential health benefits, it’s well known that fat and salt make food taste good. Better tasting foods - in this case, vegetables - have a better chance of being swallowed. This experience has informed my general approach to cooking for kids: make sure the food tastes good. If it doesn’t, add some high quality fat and a pinch of salt until it does.
Sauce It Up
Once Olivia had a full set of teeth, we gladly put the blender aside and began experimenting with giving her whole vegetables. Things were going good in the beginning. She would often devour piles of Parmesan Roasted Broccoli, Golden Cauliflower and Balsamic Beets with Walnuts. We naively thought we were great parents.
Then, suddenly, she lost all interest. She started pushing the veggies around her plate while making violent demands for pepperoni and cheese. What happened?
Thankfully, a new solution unveiled itself. We recently added larger 4oz containers of sauce to the operation for use in our Real Food At Home product line. I always put out a variety of dipping sauces on the dinner table but, until recently, they were housed in smaller, less noticeable containers. Now, they are large and in charge.
One night, I was spooning out some Basil Almond Pesto onto my meal when Olivia took interest. I passed the container over to her. She ate a fork full and her eyes lit up. She was in love. It was a lightbulb moment.
Soon, RFE sauces became a secret flavor weapon that transformed vegetables into sauce transportation devices. Like butter and salt, delicious sauces added a flavor boost to the vegetables. “Hey Liv, how about some cauliflower and broccoli for dinner”. No answer. “How about some cauliflower and broccoli with Sesame Tahini sauce???”. “YES, PLEASE”. Genius.
Read The Ingredients Label
Olivia went on to develop a sauce addiction. Sauce became the main event. Kelly became concerned - “Olivia, you can’t eat an entire container of pesto for dinner!”.
I thought, why not? Our Basil Almond Pesto is a nutritional masterpiece: fresh basil and parsley, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, garlic, parmesan cheese, and fresh lemon juice. It’s basically a green herb smoothie. Herbs happen to be some of the most nutrient dense plant foods. If it were loaded with soybean or canola oil like many store bought versions, I would share Kelly’s concern. But RFE Pesto? What’s not to love? I canceled the intervention and told Olivia to chow down, uninhibited.
She has gone on to develop a love for our Vegan Garlic Cashew sauce as well. Like all of our menu items, it is squeaky clean and astonishingly delicious. Coconut milk, cashews, garlic, and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Grab a spoon!
Dipping sauces have been an incredible tool for me to get more vegetables into Olivia’s stomach. Conventional wisdom urges us to limit dressing and sauces. However, my approach is to embrace them - so long as they don’t contain low quality ingredients. Herein lies the beauty of Real Food. When feeding my family - and myself for that matter - I focus on side-stepping portion control and restrictions by leading with ingredient quality.
There you have it. A few strategies that have worked for me over the past three years. I’ll conclude with a disclaimer: I am not an expert at training kids to eat vegetables (although, that would probably be a lucrative profession). No matter how deeply I love vegetables, I must remain creative to keep my kids on board with colorful meals. We have good weeks and bad weeks. If you are going through a rough patch - don’t worry. Remain hopeful, remain creative, and just keep trying. There are few things more important than the health and vitality of the next generation.
Stay Real. Stay Strong.