I am a huge fan of summer for many reasons. I love the warm weather, the relaxed schedule, and having my kids home with me. Last summer, the kids and I embarked on a little adventure in the produce department. Each shopping trip we picked out a fruit or a vegetable that was new to us.
This year it was a little harder to find unknown treasures, so we focused on trying some of those fruits and veggies in new ways. My kids love cooking with me, so it wasn't just a sneaky way to get them to retry some vegetables they didn't love the first go around. It was also a fun summer activity on days that seemed a little longer than others.
When trying to persuade my kids to add a little variety to their diets -- even my pickiest eater -- I have found some tricks that work for my family.
The first is letting them choose the vegetable. A trip to the grocery store with the rule that you have to pick out a vegetable that we haven't already eaten this week usually does the trick. I love asparagus, and have convinced the boys in my family that it is wonderful, but my girls still need a little convincing.
The second trick is in the presentation. I think a lot of us grew up eating vegetables that were boiled in water until tender. You can't really blame a kid for not loving water-logged asparagus, so using different preparation and serving methods can make them a little more appealing to kids and adults alike.
My young kids love anything on a stick. Add a few skewers and you now have veggie kabobs - or in this case, an asparagus raft - that is easy to toss on the grill. Using the thickest asparagus you can find and the smallest skewers will help keep this raft afloat during grilling.
Trick number three is to let them prepare the vegetables on their own. One easy way to do this is to set out a selection of veggies and let each family member create their own pouch of veggies to throw on the grill or toss in the oven. This method is also fun for parties, where each guest can customize their own side dish. Put some diced vegetables in bowls, alongside some olive oil and the contents of your spice rack, and let everyone go to town. For kids, it is a great way to sneak a not-so-loved veggie in with some of their favorites.
The spice options can be simple. One of our favorite pouches includes just salt and pepper, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top when it comes off of the grill. If you have a really picky eater who will only swallow a veggie covered in ranch dressing, try letting them sprinkle a little bit of a ranch seasoning packet in their pouch. They will get the same taste without the actual dressing.
The next trick is setting yourself up for success by pairing a new vegetable with a main dish that your kids already love. If you are already arguing about how many bites of meatloaf they have to eat, chances aren't good that they are going to finish their unfamiliar asparagus without a fight.
If nothing else works, hide the veggies. I love recipes for things like stuffed eggplant. The kids may think that not eating the outer shell helps them avoid the veggie all together, when in reality there is eggplant hidden inside the rice and beef that they are enjoying.
Never give up after the first attempt at a vegetable, but if multiple attempts at these methods don't work, it is okay to allow them to have vegetables that they don't like. That is why I always try to have more than one option, and a fresh green salad, available as part of dinner. Not eating any vegetables doesn't fly in our house, but there are fresh veggies in the fridge that they are welcome to substitute on their dinner plate.
If all else fails, try making your favorite recipe and telling your kids you aren't sharing it. Nothing piques kids' interest more than being told they can't have something.
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