We all know that vegetables are good for our families, and when trying to improve the nutrition of daily meals, the first thing that comes to mind is to eat more veggies. The reality, though, is that children, especially children with special needs, can be quite unwilling to eat vegetables. Sometimes it’s the texture, especially of raw vegetables, and sometimes it is the look (ooh! It’s green!). So the challenge for moms trying to improve a child’s diet is how to get more vegetables in while keeping empty calories out. While more vegetables are great for improving the nutrtion of children, this dietary change can also help the adults in the family with weight loss and also avoiding heart disease.
Get Some Nutrition Help
For families where disease or bad dietary habits have impacted health, it may be time for some professional help. In Miami, Miami Children's Hospital has an excellent inpatient and outpatient program to improve diet and nutrition. Their services include calorie counts, nutrition counseling, instructions on formula preparation, and daily screenings to assess nutritional risk.
Not everyone needs this kind of intervention, and there are some easy ways to encourage kids (and their moms) to eat more veggies.
Make Nutrition Fun
Making food fun is one technique that works for some children. Arranging vegetables on a plate in the shape of a clown face or making “ants on a log” by stuffing celery with peanut butter and dotting with raisins are two easy favorites. There are those children, of course, who may smile at these efforts but still refuse to eat them.
Vegetables Can Be Part of Every Meal
In some countries, it is common to serve salad and vegetables for breakfast. In Israel, for instance, many families start the day with a hardboiled egg, a slice of cheese, and a big bowl of “Israeli Salad” (basically cucumbers and tomatoes chopped very small). Starting this habit right from the beginning is best, but this isn’t always possible. An alternative may be to cut up cucumbers, red and yellow peppers, and cherry tomatoes and place them on an attractive plate on the breakfast table. Kids love finger food, and they may start eating the vegetables without thinking about it very much.
When All Else Fails, Hide Them
If, after using these techniques, the kids are still not eating vegetables, disguising them is an option. A popular cookbook, The Sneaky Chef, has lots of great ideas to make food loaded with hidden vegetables that also appeal to kids. Try this recipe from The Sneaky Chef website, for instance:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
- 1 cup Flour Blend (1/3 cup whole grain flour,
1/3 cup white flour, 1/3 cup wheat germ)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- One-half teaspoon baking soda
- One-half teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- One-quarter cup brown sugar
- One-quarter cup canola oil
- Three-quarters cup Orange Puree (see recipe below)
- Three-quarters cup smooth peanut butter
- 8 heaping teaspoons favorite jam*
*Note: Jelly doesn't work as well as the thicker variety of jam; jelly just disappears into the muffins.
> Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
> In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined, then whisk in the oil, Orange Puree and peanut butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until flour is just moistened (don't over-mix or the muffins will be dense).
> Scoop about two tablespoons of batter into the large muffin cups until half full. Place a heaping teaspoon of jam in the center of each muffin. Cover the jam with another 2 tablespoons or so of batter, filling the cups just over the top. If you're using mini muffin cups, scale back quantities to fit into the smaller sized cups.
> Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
- 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and rough chopped;
- 3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks;
- 2-3 tablespoons water
> In a medium pot, cover carrots and potatoes with cold water and boil for about 20 minutes until yams, and especially the carrots, are very tender. If the carrots aren't thoroughly cooked, they'll leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables, which will reveal their presence (a gigantic NO-NO for the sneaky chef).
> Drain the potatoes and carrots and put them in the bowl of food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth; no pieces of carrots or potatoes should remain. Stop occasionally to push the contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the third tablespoon of water to make a smooth puree, but the less water the better.