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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Finicky Eaters

Jan 31, 2020 12:00PM

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How to Get Them to Eat Their Veggies ... and like ‘Em!


by A.J. Fleming

Meals are typically regarded as a time-honored family tradition combining the comforting elements of food, fun and sharing for parents and children alike. However, sometimes vegetables can be the enemy. The eternal battle continues to rage on between mothers who lovingly try to get persnickety children (and sometimes stubborn husbands) to eat their veggies.

She may feel like she is forced to strap on an army helmet and bulletproof vest when it comes time to serve up the vegetables. Children, in return, may regard green veggies, such as broccoli and spinach, as little green Martians who desire to take over the Earth. All of this resentment can put unwanted stress on mealtime and even tarnish the tradition and family memories.

Before we get to solutions to this dilemma, let’s examine the health reasons why everyone should eat their vegetables. They’re low in fat and rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Research suggests that diets ample in vegetables can boost our immune system and help prevent a multitude of ailments, including certain types of cancer and heart disease.

Global statistics support these studies by revealing how populations who regularly eat sufficient quantities of vegetables have lower rates of debilitating disease and longer life spans. Additionally, using veggies in home recipes in place of high-calorie ingredients (like oily fats, carbohydrates and sugars) can help people maintain normal weight—something to consider with obesity at nationwide epidemic proportions.

So, you would think that all those tremendous health benefits would be motivating enough to get people to eat more vegetables ... right? Not necessarily. People with busy schedules endorse the popular excuse of “I don’t have time to cook,” and when combined with the fact that ready-to-eat meal options are so commonly available at supermarkets, convenience stores and drive-throughs, it’s easy to see how these factors play a role in what people choose to eat.

Likewise, overcoming taste barriers remains a major obstacle. For many, their taste buds have become spoiled rotten to a point where they simply don’t care for anything that is not loaded with sugar, salt or fat, or dipped in chocolate. And because tastes buds have become compromised, people will often pass on a tossed salad that is not buried in an avalanche of rich, creamy dressing, or a baked potato that is not blanketed beyond recognition with a mountain of sour cream and/or butter. Or how about a raisin that is not chocolate coated?

Fortunately, “taste” can be programed just like a computer. Americans were not born craving burgers and fries. Being raised on certain foods simply develops certain taste habits through long-term conditioning, but eating habits can change for the better with the passage of time. The following tips should help those finicky eaters tolerate vegetables to a more satisfactory degree, which in turn, may ease the stress of family meals.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Cut vegetables into smaller pieces before adding them to foods so their presence will not be so obvious to the anti-veggie crowd. The finer they are chopped, usually the better the results. Nourishing vegetables worth considering include broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, turnips, onions, garlic, parsley, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery and leafy greens (such as romaine, spinach, cabbage, kale and collards).
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Please note: When preparing cabbage, you may wish to cut out the center core and the center spine on the kale and collards as they can be quite bitter. Additionally, keep in mind that dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and kale, are often rated as the most nutritious plants on the planet and function well in a wide range of recipes. Therefore, if you were to focus on only one group, these would be an excellent choice from a health and nutritional standpoint.

Concealment: Another Key to Victory

Disguise chopped or finely cut vegetables by hiding them in common foods. Most people who dislike veggies usually object to a huge pile staring back at them on their plate. Therefore, give these camouflage tips a try:

·       Pasta sauce is a great place to hide chopped veggies.

·       When making pizza, bury them under a layer of cheese.

·       Fold veggies into omelets and scrambled eggs.

·       Mask veggies in soups alongside the noodles, potatoes or rice.

·       Vegetables are barely conspicuous tucked inside a dense casserole.

·       Camouflage veggies inside mashed potatoes.

·       Enhance macaroni and cheese by adding some broccoli or peas.

·       Add veggies to rice pilaf.

·       Conceal veggies inside sandwiches, burritos or tacos.

·       Don’t forget to add the lettuce, tomato and onions to burgers.

Charm the Crowd Through Modesty

Add only modest amounts of veggies to dishes because you don’t want to overwhelm your audience in the beginning. Treat this task like an experiment, then slowly increase the quantity and variety of vegetables over a period of time. Victories with your family should escalate. Remember, patience is a virtue.

The next time you are cooking and suspect you are about to face an onslaught of rejection from your anti-veggie crowd, and before your finicky eaters get huffy over your little speech of “veggies are good for you,” give these suggestions a try. You never know, it may even help alter their taste buds and they may actually grow to like those once scorned vegetables.

A.J. Fleming, ND, author of the books STOP Committing Suicide with a Fork! and Nutrition Made E-Z, has more than 20 years’ experience as a nutritional researcher and author. A naturopathic consultant, he was a former adviser to a vitamin supplement manufacturer, newspaper columnist, and personal health counselor. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Let’s Live Magazine, Bestways Magazine, Christian Living in the Mature Years, and Natural Awakenings magazine. An ex-marathon runner, with the Boston Marathon to his credit, he is a Christian by faith, and his hobbies include reading, fitness and vegetarianism.

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