Every parent knows how difficult a task it can be to get their children to eat vegetables. Nonetheless, we have to remember that vegetables contain many vitamins and elements that are vital for good health and their development. In this article, we aim to present you with some tricks and ideas to help you make vegetables more appealing to your children and have them actively asking for more! So, let’s get straight to it!
Deconstructed food: primarily purees, creams and smoothies. Cook the vegetables, put them in a blender and Mum or Dad presses a button. It’s as simple as that! In order to preserve all the nutrients, it’s best to steam the vegetables or use them in their raw state. Of course, it’s important to make sure that the vegetables we want to use can be eaten raw. Some need to be cooked, but you might be surprised how many of them can be enjoyed in their natural state. A little trick is to take them out of the fridge a bit earlier so that they can be blended more easily. Taking on the role of magician, we make shapes and textures disappear, the very things our little ones tend to reject, with the aid of a blender. What’s more, purees, creams and smoothies allow us to camouflage the bitter or bland taste of many vegetables with a sweeter one, by adding carrots, beetroot or even dates.
Gastronomic alchemy: anything can be turned into gold, you just have to find the right combination. The trick is in dressings, garnishes, condiments and sauces. Anything you can think of that will make the dish more enjoyable for your son or daughter. For example, instead of simply offering them chunks of cauliflower, try topping them with a tasty cheese sauce and see how quickly they disappear! Making homemade sauces or mayonnaise is really not that difficult and it needn’t take more than a few minutes. The great advantage of these garnishes it that they have the power to turn the vegetables into something that your child comes to regard as delicious. Green beans not exciting enough? No problem. Put them in a Russian salad using homemade mayonnaise and they are bound to end up loving them. Won’t eat carrots? Try grating them and adding a little honey and cinnamon to the mix. A good accompaniment can be just the ticket. There are no limits to your imagination.
Quality time together. Quickly preparing food while your child is watching cartoons or playing games is sometimes practical and necessary, but it doesn’t usually create much of an appetite. How about involving them in the preparation? Materlu has a lovely story called “The Great Chef” which demonstrates how much fun preparing food together can be. There are some tasks your child can easily do, such as washing vegetables, coating croquettes in breadcrumbs and stirring sauces. By giving them tasks to do in the kitchen, appropriate for their age and always taking safety into account, they feel more important and valued and will be proud of the results. Working together and helping each other is a fun activity and this makes for a healthy appetite. Besides, children love anything that involves Mum and Dad’s company. Additionally, being in the kitchen surrounded by smells, handling the ingredients and, of course, getting to taste things is sure to work up an appetite. Little ones will gladly sit down to eat the fruits of their labour!
Marketing. That’s right, you have to sell the product. We can give our compositions fun names and, instead of just chucking them on the plate, make them into shapes so that they are more appealing. For example, we can turn sliced carrot pieces into a smiley face, a flower or their favourite superhero’s logo on top of blended vegetables. We could create a battlefield on the plate, where green beans and potatoes compete for the most egg. Another great idea is to make your child an expert. Prepare a plate of various ingredients for them and ask them to taste each part carefully, assigning points to categories such as taste, colour, texture, sweetness, intensity, level of crunchiness, etc. Obviously, in order to be able to have a say, they will first have to eat them. In addition, taking their opinion seriously will not only help you to find out which vegetables they like to be able take it into account when preparing food, but it will also strengthen your bond and help your little ones gain confidence in themselves.
Don’t play with food… or do? Combine eating vegetables with play. Because if something is fun, it is much easier to get them to eat it. Why not sit in front of the plates with your little one and have a question and answer session? Whoever adds two numbers wrongly or gets a word wrong has to eat a piece of the vegetable that they don’t like. You may have to get the answers wrong a few times to keep the game fun for your child! Alternatively, you can give rewards for finishing eating, and extra rewards if they manage to eat all of the vegetables on the plate. The prize could be reading a story with you, and extra rewards could be enjoying an ice cream while you read it to them. Or how about preparing a “blind” meal? Blindfold them and then they try to guess what they are eating. It’s not actually as easy as it might seem. Therefore, they will probably need to eat a good amount before being able to get the correct answer. What’s more, the mere act of eating food without being able to see it is a challenge in itself (advice: don’t put them in a white shirt for this one!) and is consequently both fun and hilarious. Finally, doing away with the sense of sight intensifies what we perceive through taste and smell, and we experience more flavour, even from the blandest of foods.
This article does not claim to be the answer, far from it, but we hope it inspires you to prepare unforgettable vegetable dishes for your children. In any case, if at any point your creativity starts to waver, simply look to one of Materlu’s fun stories. They have the power to awaken adults’ imaginations, just as much as they do the children’s.