Frustrated with your kid for not eating any vegetables? Stressed out that your kid is not having a well balanced diet? Well, don’t look too far for the culprit and take a good hard look at yourself!
There are lots of articles written about how to get your kids to eat healthier and to have a more well balanced diet. Let’s take the focus off the children for a second and onto ourselves. Are you a picky eater and do you have a well balanced diet? I am by no means a nutritionist, a dietitian, or a doctor. What I am, is an excellent cook and have two kids (15 month old and 3 year old) who are voracious eaters. Tonight’s dinner was a made from scratch – chicken coconut curry with celery, onions, spinach, carrots and peas served over white rice. Both of them had seconds.
Studies have shown that babies can start tasting flavors as early as 21 weeks after conception! That’s right, babies have been known to develop specific preference for certain kinds of food, if the mother eats it while pregnant or nursing. Some foods even pass through to your breast milk, like garlic. Sensitivity to bitter and sweet tastes is present at birth, while salty flavors come into play at five months. It’s not about getting your kids to eat the broccoli, forget about the broccoli! It’s about you, expanding your palate and adding variety.
Here are a couple of easy tips to follow:
Start Simple: The key is not to replace things (pasta for zoodles aka zucchini noodles), but to add. No matter what you do, zoodles will never be a replacement for a beautifully al dente spaghetti. Instead, add the zoodles and mix them in with the spaghetti noodles. This week I made a vegetarian lasagna and tossed in some butternut squash noodles between the noodle and sauce layers, it gave the lasagna a really nice texture and just a tad bit of sweetness. My three year old is not a fan of squash, but loved this dish!
Don’t Hide Your Veggies: A lot of parents sneak vegetables into other dishes to convince their kids to eat them. I love vegetables, let them shine in all their glory. How are you able to introduce a new flavor and texture if you’re hiding it? I believe it’s just contributing to the pickiness if you’re just going to make everything taste the same. One of the dishes that I love to make that highlights vegetables is Yemista (Greek style meat and or rice stuffed vegetables). I usually make it out of any type of vegetable I have in the fridge (tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, or zucchini).
Visit Your Local Ethnic Grocery Stores: There are two H-Marts (Korean owned grocery stores) in Westchester, one in Hartsdale and another in Yonkers. It’s really the best way to get out of your food rut and introduce your family to a variety of new flavors. Try a dragonfruit (my husband’s favorite)! You can’t miss them, they’re bright pink with a fleshy skin and taste like kiwifruit. The best part about Hmart, is they are always giving away free samples and they have a food court to try out different types of food.
Lead by Example: Show your kids that you eat vegetables too and not just at dinner, but throughout the entire day. When you go out to eat, use that as a special time to try something new. Don’t order off the typical kids menu of chicken fingers, pizza and burgers, but let them venture off into the regular menu and eat what you eat.
Food Subscription Box Service: If you don’t know how to cook outside of your comfort zone, this is the best way to sample and learn how to cook different types of cuisines. Most subscription services offer heavy discounts for the first week. Plus, you’re not running all over town to find a special ingredient.
Cook Together: Enroll your kids into helping you cook dinner, whether it be measuring ingredients, chopping up the vegetables (with help), and putting together the meal. They will appreciate dinner time more, once they’ve put the effort into making it. It’s also a fun to test out the differences in flavor and textures of raw versus cooked vegetables.
Don’t forget to be consistent and pack fun foods into their lunch boxes as well. It doesn’t take much additional effort, it just takes some serious planning. All of us have different priorities when it comes to our children, for me it’s sharing our cultural traditions through food. My hope is to inspire you to think outside of the box for fun foods for you and your family. Check out a few of my bento boxes that I’ve packed for my three year old, happy tasting!