2010 is here and I'm ISO vegetables that even my kids will eat.
We've vowed that with the New Year we all need to cut down on the sweets and carbs and find new vegetable dishes that we can all enjoy. Meat dishes will work also, but we're trying to stay away from the cheese dishes and the cream sauces. Am I trying to kid myself?
I hesitate to post this as corn does indeed have carbs and this dish has cheese but, good grief, cheese has calcium---good for your kids. Try them on this: take a bag of frozen corn, thaw it slightly in the microwave, and put it in the Cuisinart just for a few seconds not to puree but to break up the kernels. In a mixing bowl beat 2-3 eggs, a cup of milk, a package of pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese, the busted-up corn, some salt & pepper, and 1/4 cup Bisquick (important as this stabilizes it). Bake this in a buttered baking dish for 45 minutes to an hour until it is brown on top. It doesn't look like a vegetable and tastes very corny and cheesy but has lots of fiber and is full of protein. BUT if you want something green, see what supermarket in your area is owned by Safeway---on their own brand they sell frozen petite brussels sprouts, really tiny and cute, that are fun to eat.
If your kids like pickles, you can pickle any number of vegetables, using Splenda or agave if they want sweet-and-sour and you want to avoid refined sugar.
Shredding a variety of colorful vegetables is more economical than buying pre-bagged shreds. They can be marinated and served as a salad/side or to top chicken, pork, or fish before baking. They can be quickly sauteed or added to casseroles and soups. If you make a lot, freeze it in several smaller baggies.
I have two very young children and have found that bringing them with me to the farmers markets really encourages their love of fruit and vegetables. They are often enchanted with the colors of different veggies and ask me to buy them.
In terms of cooking, what I find works best is a simple saute in butter. I use a very moderate amount butter, probably less than a tablespoon for a whole head of broccoli. Basically, I heat up the sautee pan, let the butter melt and swirl it around, then add the veggies. I stir the vegggies and sprinkle them with water occasionally if I think they are starting to stick. A little salt at the end, and you're done. My kids love all sorts of vegetables cooked this way: broccoli, green beans, carrots (though those are often served raw), mushrooms, etc. The vegetables have a lot of the mellow butter flavor without a lot of actual butter.
The other thing I'd like to add is that not all vegetables are equal: home grown (yours or a neighbor's) are always first choice, farmers markets (where I am) generally second, etc. If you really want your family to enjoy vegetables, it's worth it to find good ones, not just the ones in the supermarket that have spent two weeks in shipping. It's like buying meat-- buying a better cut or grade can make a large difference in flavor. I find this especially true for vegetables, because in my family we cook them so lightly (whereas I can marinate a cheaper cut of steak).
Finally, we stumbled on something that may or may not work for you. With some veggies, we didn't even offer them to our kids but instead ate them ourselves, with relish, in front of the kids. And over time, the kids got curious and asked to taste them... so now they both like artichokes and collard greens. Go figure. Of course, if you have older kids, this reverse psychology probably won't work, but with young ones, it might be worth a try.
Best of luck to you. It's an admirable, achieveable goal--
I second the letting kids shop for veggies and getting the freshest possible. My kids are brassica snobs (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, etc). We belong to a CSA and they have been raised on stuff harvested in the last 24 hours - huge huge difference in flavor. In the off season we take them to the farmer's market and let them help pick things out. They know veggies are part of dinner and if they are hungry they will eat them. There won't be anything else until they eat the 1 portion (1/2 cup) of veggies given them. they don't always like them - especially bitter greens, but they eat them and sometimes they find they like what they eat. My older son loves spinach and chard and collard greens for instance, and my younger son loves salad.
Also second the pureed veggie soup. We thicken with red lentils and call it lentil soup, or black beans etc. Kids devour it. i have put all sorts of non-kid friendly veggies from our csA in there and they eat it very well.
Last night, the kids loved the quick chicken noodle soup I whipped up. Boiled some breasts (added bouillon), then cut them up and returned them to the pot and added half a box of elbow macaroni and a bag of frozen soup vegetables. I let them sprinkle a little cheese on top. The 6-year-old cleaned her plate and the 10-year-old had seconds. For some reason, they loved it when I called it chicken noodle soup -- when in fact it was mostly veggies!
My goddaughter is pretty darn picky, but she knows she has to have something "green" or true vegetable with every meal (i.e. corn, peas, potatoes don't count)... don't ask, that's just how it works in their family.
We build a forest when I have her, and she loves it... Broccoli makes trees, carrots make logs, patty pan squash are flowers/lilypads, brussel sprouts for bushes, spinach for grass, and for the lake, a little dip or sauce in the middle. Feel free to add or substitute for the foliage :)
Cauliflied Rice - use cauliflower grated instead of rice
Spaghetti Squash with sauce of choice - it's got spaghetti right in the name (forgo the squash part of the name)
Zucchini or Carrot or Sweet Potato or some other form of latke baked rather than fried
I have a four year old who is stubborn when it comes to trying new foods. My husband and I are both adventurous eaters, and for the most part serve him what we eat - but depending on his mood he can be quite picky. I have found that frequently he likes it, but getting him to try it is the challenge. Try making it fun - call broccoli little trees or steam some frozen edamame and let him "pop" them open. Another favorite for my son is having a "veggie parade" where I let him line up all the small veggies (think corn, peas) in a line on the table - and then he eats them one by one. Silly but it works. I also still sneak in extra veggies by way of fried rice and spag sauce or veggie/noodle soup. GOod luck
Personally, I think when kids say they don't like vegetables they mean they don't like overcooked vegetables and canned vegetables and sometimes frozen vegetables. So cook fresh veggies tender-crisp and blanch them for bright colors and see what action you get from that.
If you want insurance that kids will eat them, the best plan of all is to have them grow some vegetables -- Michele Obama style. Peas are easy and probably the first thing to plant in the Spring. If you get peas with edible pods they'll have a choice of eating them whole or shelling them. If you take a bowl of water out to the garden for them to give them a quick wash they can stand there and eat them while they are still like candy. Carrots are east IF you have deep loose soil. If you don't, choose something else -- no reason to introduce frustration but there are half-long varieties to choose from or even ping pong ball shaped carrots if you can cultivate down 6-8"/ Also red carrots and white carrots and those things that are surprising will also intrigue kids.
Take them shopping to choose the veggies and let them help in the cooking. Everything that gives them "ownership" will increase their interest.
Then there's how you cook them. One thing that my kids always liked was carrots shredded or sliced into bite-sized pieces. Saute them to tender-crisp in a little bit of butter. Add a tiny bit of maple syrup or honey and toss to glaze them. Or cut them into uniform lengths. Halve them vertically if that makes sense. Toss them in olive oil. Roast them in a very hot oven until you start to see brown edges. You can sprinkle on herbs if they would like that. Thyme and tarragon are great with carrots. My kids also love fresh spinach -- which is so easy now that you can buy it cleaned -- steamed or lightly sauteed in a little butter until it's limp and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
I haven't experimented on too many kids, since I don't have any of my own, yet, but to echo a few suggestions upthread, my nieces and nephews and younger cousins really like my roasted veggies (especially roasted asparagus, but also roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli) and chopped salads made with tomato, cucumber, black bean, cilantro, toasted cumin seed, sweet peppers, corn, olive oil and rice wine vinegar.
On my SO's side, our younger relations are suckers for baby carrots (with or without hummus or salsa) and tomato soup. Everyone seems to like roasted red pepper or roasted butternut squash soup, pureed cauliflower (again as mentioned upthread), vegetable frittatas.
If your kids are more adventurous eaters, they might like vegetable maki filled with julienned carrots or cucumber (very easy to make and a good finger food); tabbouleh; lettuce wraps filled with almost anything you like (we often do ground chicken, sweet and hot peppers, onion, baby corn, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, etc...).
I personally have always, always *loved* broccoli stirfried (or just sauteed if you don't have a wok) with gobs of minced garlic. In college, my favorite meal was garlicky broccoli with pico de gallo salsa... I know it sounds vaguely disgusting, but it appealed to my mutant teenage tastebuds and might appeal to your kids.
As a final note, I've come across a number of "cream" sauce recipes where the "cream" was actually made with pureed cauliflower (in all or in part -- I forget). If you really miss your creamy sauces, you could look into these.
I loved (semi-)homemade veggie burgers as a kid. They were made from a mix sold through the Adventist co-op that my parents belonged to. Add ketchup, lettuce, and a bun and what's not to love? As I recall it was a grain- and seed-based burger. I'm sure you can find a recipe you can all agree on ...
A bowl of pinto beans is pretty good, with onion, ketchup, a little cheese, peppers, or whatever extras anyone wants. The different colors of bell peppers are pretty ... I liked these beans as a kid. My mother made them in the pressure cooker, which yields a different (and good) soupy effect ...
Not sure how old your kids are, but we had a lot of luck wiht our toddlers, just giving them whatever we were eating. No alternatives. If they don't want to eat it, they don't have to,but that's what is for dinner. Plus, they see us enjoying it and not treating it like a "chore" or something we "have to do" so they genuinely get excited when we serve broccoli. One thing we definitley do is mix it up. Never the same vegetable twice in a week and if we mix two vegetables together, they feel like at least they have a choice between one or the other. Green beans and onion, broccoli and mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash, etc. Garlic or salt and pepper is really all they need. Here's my recipe: cut up the vegetables, sprinkle salt on them, cover and place in the micro wave for a few minutes (3-5). They LOVE it.
When I saw the title of the post I thought immediately "zucchini fritters" but then I saw the OP's concerns about cutting down on carbs.
No, to the OP, you're not trying to kid yourself. Although I don't understand vegetarianism as a choice for me, vegetarian/vegan cooking in general has transcended the "brown gack" of a decade ago and become truly interesting. So even though some of your recipes will be using meat, others you'll find attractive will be veggie-intensive.
How does your brood feel about salads? There are all sorts of textures and flavors in salad greens, and plenty of stuff to add interest. I know you want to steer away from cheese, but sometimes a bit really turns a ho-hum salad around. Exploiting seasonal vegetables and fruits in salad is the way to keep things interesting, too. My dad used to keep a marinated salad of cucumber, onion, peppers and carrots in a big bowl in the fridge -- in the '60s.
The only other thing is that one of my favorite ways to enjoy vegetables is Korean vegetable pancakes. The mix is available at Asian markets, you add shredded vegetables of all kinds (the more, the merrier). They cook up kinda chewy/pancakey/crispy-vegetable. And a total umami trip if you add a hint of MSG to the batter and serve 'em up with a soy/vinegar based sauce...
How about veggie lasagna in a red sauce? You can control the amount of cheese if that's a concern, and you can cut the veggies on the smaller side. My kids also love almost any kind of veggie raw (or blanched) that they can dip. Broccoli and cauliflower sauteed with salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil, or smothered in a little bit of teriyaki sauce also seems to do the trick!
I got my nieces and nephews (who I raised) to eat broccoli and cauliflower by making 'that cool spiral stuff' - romanesco brocolli, cut small, and purple and orange cauliflower. Roasted or blanched. I sometimes sprinkled cheese-flavored popcorn topping on it (lots of sodium, I know, but you gotta compromise) and they loved ate it up, because it looked cool.
I could get them to eat lots of stuff if I made it into finger food that they could dip - kids love to dip! Roasted chicken tenderloins dipped in soy sauce was a fave. Again, salt, but you pick your battles and there was never anything to drink in the house except for milk and water.
Best thing to get them to try anything - assist with finding a good recipe for it, shopping for it, prepping it, and cooking it. I got all of them, (even my brother!) to like Brussels sprouts this way. It never did work with liver and onions, though, I had to save that for myself. It didn't work for everything, but I at least got them to try new things.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!
I don't have kids of my own but I do have nephews and nieces. I'd also agree with those who say kids will model parents,. Not easy thoiugh unless the kids are at a fairly early age.
Tale of two families then.
First family emigrated from the UK to America. Parents are not great cooks or have a great interest in food and, let's say, found great appeal in the States in bottom end, high fat , high sugar foods. End result - kids eat a very limited diet and never seem to want to try anything different now they are back in the UK.
Wife's sister emigrated to Spain, married there and has a son. She's a good cook and the family ate a classic Mediterranean diet - high in veggies fruit and fish. Result - seventeen year old nephew has an interest in food, can cook and still likes fish and veg now they are in the UK.
Have you heard of The Great Big Vegetable Challenge? It was a British mum trying to get her son to learn to like vegetables. They cooked their way through vegetables A to Z, and her son rated the dishes. It turned into a book deal (you could see that coming). But the blog is still open, and you can click on the Archives to read it all. You might find some recipes there, and possibly use her approach of involving her children with cooking and rating.
Well, since I'm Cantonese I've never understood the blanket "kids don't like veggies" thing. Growing up, nearly all our daily veggies were stir-fried. Steamed and boiled veggies are relatively tasteless, but stir-frying and roasting vegetables--with a decent amount of salt and oil, mind you--can help render most vegetables palatable.
My friend's kids will eat pretty much anything stir fried. They love to watch her cook stir fried veggies also.. they say it's like a show.. everything spattering a bit and being tossed in the wok.
When I was a kid, I was actively involved in veggie prep. I peeled celery and cucucmbers, sliced tomatoes, broke cauliflower florets. I was encouraged to taste everything at all steps of the cooking process.
Same for Indian food (as PegS reports for Chinese/Cantonese).
The simple home style Indian vegetable side dishes usually involve quickly sauteeing veggies with basic spices, and yield extremely tasty results.
Much less pickiness about veggies "overall" among Indian-cuisine kids, though individual kids may have specific likes and dislikes.
I too think this widespread notion in the US that kids can't/don't/won't like veggies is 1) largely myth 2) largely derived from bad cooking and d) largely based on parents' own habits.
The good news is that if the parents (as the OP seems to be doing) include lots of veggies in yummy (not fried or cheese drenched) recipes at home, the kids will most likely follow right along.
Good luck, OP and do report back re your successes!
When I was a kid I didn't like many vegetables...I liked salads because there are choices and I could pick what I liked and because of that, I tried different things. Because my grandmother had a garden and I used to help her pick vegetables when I visited, I loved okra, fried in cakes she used to make and in Brunswick stew, which was a veggie packed stew with meat like chicken. My grandmother also grew bitter mixed "salad" greens which were essentially a combination of kale, mustard greens and some others I don't know the names of...these were braised with either bacon or salt pork.
I liked broccoli, butter beans, green beans, corn and cabbage...that's about all.
I grew into a lot of others when I got older....but then, my mother was southern and didn't cook outside the box so my suggestion would be to introduce the veggies a little at a time in their natural state. It also helps to have the kids choose something new so they'll be more likely to try it.
OP didn;t give the children's ages but I think if they are younger than junior high, the idea of letting them choose something to try is a good one. Set a firm policy - it might be, say, that each kid has to pick one new vegetable to try each week, and that everyone must eat it, but anyone who hates it won't have to eat it again. Let them alternate weeks if you don't want to crowd the fridge with strange items. Take the kid(s) along to the market and have them pick a fresh or frozen vegetable (canned being generally less tasty) or bag of dried legumes. If they are old enough, let them then find a recipe/prep method online, perhaps helping to cook it. If they have some stake in the process, they are more likely to want to eat the food.
Hey, there's a great British blog on this very topic: The Great Big Vegetable Challenge:
This UK mom had a young son who was awful with vegetables, so she set out to introduce him to vegetables from A through Z. Child got to identify veggies beginning with the letter of the alphabet, rate recipes, like and dislike some, and so on.
You'll have to dig through the archives to follow that alphabet journey, they've completed it though they are still cooking and eating.
It worked very very well for the bloggers' kids. The children's (and parents') palates and knowledge have widened greatly and it seems to have been a lot of fun for all concerned.
Give yourselves time to change your tastes. Don't get discouraged. We eat more vegetables and more low fat meals but when I dieted to change my eating habits it took awhile for me to start loving the new meals. For example, I never used to eat apples. They made my hungrier. Now an apple and a cheese stick are my favorite mid-morning snack. We have a 5yo granddaughter who eats everything and her 3yo sister who doesn't like anything so the idea that children will eat what you eat hasn't worked in her case. She likes rice so I have put peas in the rice pilaf. Consider using other vegetables or making vegetable and couscous combinations. When the girls stay with us, they enjoy fresh fruit and cheese sticks. Grapes are a big treat. Also fresh blueberries when they are in season. Both girls also like sugar snap peas which I grow in my garden. Most everyone likes winter squash (we prefer the buttercup variety not butternut). Roasting vegetables definitely gives them a different flavor so I would try a variety. My most recent were: rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, onions. They all get sweeter. I thought the parsnips were the best. We like zucchini in every kind of recipe so if you aren't going to exclude carbs entirely, you might try a zucchini oatmeal bran and raisin muffin recipe. For some meals if watermelon is in season I will serve it on the table along with the rest of the meal.
Good luck. This is an important dietary change so I hope you are successful.
I agree with others about treating it as "this is what we are eating" rather than "this is medicine". And just because they turn up their noses at it, DON'T take it off the menu! That's a sure road to disaster. I hate hearing parents say "my kids just won't eat XYZ". Yes they will as long as that's what for dinner and you don't enable their pickiness by removing if from the menu. Just keep including lots of veggies in the diet until it becomes "this is normal human food". And I agree with keeping the other stuff out of the house. No matter what my intentions, there are some things that I can not keep out of my mouth if they are in the cupboard!
I love stir fried green beans with some garlic and toasted (unsw) coconut. Roasted vegetables, roasted sweet potato are usually popular. Spinach with raisins and pinenuts. Brussel sprouts with dried apricots and nuts. Usually a bit of sweetness from some dried fruits or nuts will help you out. Coleslaw made with more of a vinegrette than that gloppy stuff. Cucumbers and vinegar (with a bit of sugar and diluted with water; add some dill if you like) is a popular one at my house. Roasted red peppers.
Soup! If you have a good hand blender (or regular blender for that matter) you can make a great pureed veggie soup. I have a nine-year-old niece who wouldn't eat veggies if they were being offered by the Jonas Brothers but will happily scarf down my "faux split pea soup" made with green beans and cauliflower. And don't be afraid to give kids fat--putting butter on vegetables helps them absorb the nutrients better. It seems a lot of kids like chicken divan, particularly if you leave the broccoli stalks intact (the "little tree" syndrome).
When I was a kid I hated vegetables, but I can remember a few that I would tolerate:
Steamed/Sauteed Carrots with EVOO, honey, S&P
Fajitas with only Red/Yellow Peppers (I hated onions!)
Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry with carrots, broccoli, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and pea pods
Steamed broccoli with butter, S&P
Stuffed peppers (ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, etc)
Leftover Fried Rice with peas, carrots, egg
We also ate a lot of raw vegetables (had a green salad about 3 nights/week) I liked celery, carrots, broccoli, lettuce dipped in blue cheese or ranch but when my mom made salad she made a lighter dressing with EVOO, balsamic, blue cheese crumbles
Another popular recipe is puree of cauliflour. That dish is often mentioned on CH and cooking shows as a good one for kids, especially ones who are particularly stubborn about veggies. It comes out similar to mashed potatoes. I prefer to roast the cauliflour first, then purée or smash with a little liquid (stock or water) and season to taste.
You can wean them off the creamy stuff by mixing just a tsp of ranch dressing or other creamy dressing into a serving of a cooked green vegetable Decrease the amount gradually, switch to vinaigrette, then to just a splash of soy, sesame oil, balsamic, or lemon. From there, naked. Cook carrots, parsnips, beets, or turnips in ginger ale, orange juice, or apple juice. Braised greens are delicious but I wouldn't plunge right into that one - kids won't like the seaweed look. If you get them interested in other vegetables, move on to spinach, chard, and the like.
Particularly in the cold weather, most people love roasted veggies: very easy to make, and they just vanish. Everyone loves them, everyone usually finds at least one or two veggies in the group that are their special favourites, and most people find new favourites.
It's a myth that kids are somehow extra-difficult with vegetables. Kids usually do what the parents model.
Best veggies to roast (requiring minimal to no prep, beyond washing). Choose from among (or do them all):
small potatoes (or diced larger ones),
fat carrot sticks (or thick 'baby' carrots),
baby beets (top and tail them, scrub, forget about peeling, leave whole or at most cut into halves),
brussels sprouts (get the smallest ones, or at most, cut larger ones into half or quarter)
cauliflower (trim, and cut into chunks)
Whole heads of garlic, unpeeled (just slice off the top)
Preheat the oven to 430 deg F (some instructions even call for 450 deg, it's fine either way).
Line roasting pans with foil. Lightly spray the foil with olive oil.
Place the prepared veg on the pans. Toss with olive oil (don't overdo the oil, otherwise the veggies will become greasy, use just a light spray or equivalent). Toss with salt and pepper (black or red). If you have fresh rosemary, snip a tablespoon or so rosemary leaves over the veggies.
Roast for about an hour. Every 20 mins or so, take the pans out and shake the veggies around.
When the veggies are dark golden, with crispy brown edges (especially the brussels sprouts and onions), you're set.
Sprinkle a little lemon juice over the hot veggies and toss again to coat.
Serve hot. Squeeze out the garlic to eat (or spread it on toasted baguette slices).
These are fantastic.
your kids will follow your example, if you like it most likely they will too. If you enjoy veggies, and make them a big part of your diet, your kids will follow suit. if it is "medicine" and you are doing it out of duty but everyone would really rather have potato chips,you won't have much luck. Having said that, the roasted kale that has been the subject of several threads- dry it completely then cook it in the oven with a little olive oil and salt might be a big hit. Also have lots of raw veggies on hand such as carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, jicama with a low fat yogurt based dip might be enticing. Keep all the high fat, salty carb laden snacks out of the house and you and the rest of the family will most likely begin to really enjoy them. It has been helpful to me in the past to think this sort of diet change as an addition, not deprivation. Good luck!