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
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
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.
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?
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
Good Things Come in
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).
123rf.com/Antonio Gravante (Follow)
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.
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:
sauce is a great place to hide chopped veggies.
making pizza, bury them under a layer of cheese.
veggies into omelets and scrambled eggs.
veggies in soups alongside the noodles, potatoes or rice.
are barely conspicuous tucked inside a dense casserole.
veggies inside mashed potatoes.
macaroni and cheese by adding some broccoli or peas.
veggies to rice pilaf.
veggies inside sandwiches, burritos or tacos.
forget to add the lettuce, tomato and onions to burgers.
Charm the Crowd Through
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.
123rf.com/Reinis Bigacs (Follow)