When I was pregnant with Eggroll, I had it all figured out. I knew exactly the kind of parent I would be and the child I would raise. I would be calm, creative, and fashionably dressed, while my mini-me would be polite, curious, and always use a fork at mealtime.
Why did I think that this could actually be a reality? I blame “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. In the book, she makes it sound like any American kiddo can be whipped into a perfect little French bebe ready to say “oui, madam” to a three-course lunch of roasted beets, poached sole, and stinky cheese.
There would be no succumbing to the call of the chicken nugget in this house. We would eat only organic, grass-fed meat. We would eat sushi. We would eat raw vegetables!!
Then I had the baby.
Things started off OK. While still in pureed foods, Eggroll ate anything orange. Butternut squash, carrots, yellow beans with curry powder…It was all good. Green foods were out, but who could blame her? Nothing looks less appetizing than mashed up peas (except pureed chicken. That’s just nasty!) As we graduated to small pieces of things, she still liked playing with squash, but it rarely actually made it in her mouth. Boiled carrots didn’t hold her interest once there was cheese on the plate. And if we dared to put a sautéed green bean in her bowl? No way, no how!
Toddlers are supposed to get around two cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Most days, Eggroll probably eats a half a banana and a half cup of applesauce. She recently jumped on a strawberry bandwagon (yes, in winter, not back in June when we had fresh strawberries straight from the farm), so I‘m fueling that fire with all the organic, Costco-bought fruit I can stock.
That gets us to around a cup to a cup and a half of fruit. Probably more than she should have, but at least it’s not Doritos, right?! (Please tell me I’m right.)
So how do I get her to eat her vegetables?
Ah, the great “do I hide it or do I fight it” debate that has entered every mom’s head at some point. Does she hide the vegetables in familiar dishes or does she hold firm and think, “If they are hungry enough, they will eat anything”? Does she promise cookies for carrots or hide radishes under ranch dip?
Answer: Who knows?
I still haven’t figured out the perfect answer to this question, but I have found a balance that works for our family. While I am quick to hide spinach in smoothies, I also offer vegetables in their recognizable form with most meals. Sometimes this means Eggroll just looks or touches the vegetable, but that’s OK. Then it’s not as scary the next time she sees it on her plate and maybe, just maybe, she’ll try it then.
That’s the thing with the Littles — they are always changing their minds. If I have to buy tubs of off-season fruit to fuel this week’s trend, so be it. Next week if she is down with zucchini “fries,” I’ll make a batch with every meal. In our house everyone gets the same thing, so it might get boring for me, but if two years of parenting has taught me anything, it’s that small wins are the best wins.
Keep trying and take what you can get, mama. As long as you do that, Junior probably won’t eschew salads for the rest of his life. He might even try eggplant someday.
If your kids are more pro-dairy than pro-vegetable, here’s a soup recipe that probably will be a hit in your house AND sneak in some nutritional value.
Caveat 1: I only say “probably” because after snarfing it no less than five or six times in just as many months, Eggroll refused to even try it on the day I made it for this post.
Caveat 2: While writing this post I took a break for lunch. Even though there were no kids around, I had PBJ, cottage cheese, and multi-grain chips and salsa. Maybe I need someone to sneak in vegetables into my food, too!
Obviously, I need some tips, too. How do you get your kids (and your picky self/spouse) to eat their vegetables?
- 1 package frozen cauliflower (16 oz.)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded (Colby or Monterrey jack work, too)
- 1 cup milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Gateway to the North Seasoning Mix from The Spice House to taste
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Toss the frozen cauliflower florets in 2 tbsp olive oil along with the salt and pepper, arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until they start to brown. (P.S. Stop here for a great side dish!)
- Heat the rest of the olive oil in a soup pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the dried thyme and broth to deglaze the pan.
- Add the cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Puree the soup until it reaches your desired consistency with a stick blender or blend very carefully in your regular blender with a towel over the open lid.
- Mix in the cheese and milk, letting the cheese melt before adding the liquid.
- Season with salt, pepper, and seasoning mix to taste.
- 1. The first time you make the soup, puree it to pure liquid. Next time add a little texture. Keep going until the cauliflower is recognizable and you are ready to graduate to other cauliflower dishes. You win!
- 2. The Gateway to the North seasoning mix from The Spice House is a great mix of salt, maple syrup and garlic. If your little ones have a sweet tooth, this might be perfect for your kitchen.
This post is part of our Kids and Food Series where we will cover numerous topics regarding kids learning to have a healthy relationship with food. We are excited to explore this topic in a variety of ways in the coming weeks!