Monday, February 16, 2009

Eating Healthy - Part 4: Sneaking in Fruits and Vegetables for Picky Eaters

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If you do a google search on this, you will find ways to "sneak" pureed fruits and vegetables into casseroles, cakes, spaghetti sauce, pizza, muffins, etc. There are cookbooks that specialize in this. Recipes include things like pureed squash or sweet potatoes mixed into macaroni and cheese. Supposedly the taste of the "favorite food" is not altered that much and the color is unchanged also. Personally, I think that sounds like a lot of pureeing in order to get the full servings of vegetables.
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While the short term goal of getting vitamins and nutrients into a picky eater may be met with this approach, it does not address the long term goal of developing lifelong healthy habits or nutritional food preferences. If you are going to try those ideas for hiding vegetables in a recipe, I would suggest having another vegetable on the plate in it's natural recognizable state. Here are some of my suggestions to encourage the development of lifelong healthy eating habits in your children (or other picky eaters in your household)...
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1.) Start with baby steps. If they only eat 3 itty bitty green beans the first attempt, well, it's better than nothing. Next time, try for 4 or 5. The worst thing you can do is force a child to eat a bowl full of vegetables, causing them to throw up and now they have developed a taste aversion to that vegetable.
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2.) Don't puree them to make them completely disappear but allow the kids to mix the vegetables into something else to make it more palatable, for example, have them take a bite of green beans with mashed potatoes. Or, make a cheesy brocolli rice side dish. (This seems to come naturally for parents, so I'm sure you've already done this.)
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3.) Add extra vegetables into casseroles, stir fry, and pizza.
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4.) Add vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, sprouts, cucumbers, peppers, spinach) to sandwiches...think Subway.
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5.) Homemade vegetable soups...beef vegetable...lima bean chowder...cabbage soup, etc.
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6.) Change the shape or texture to something that is appealing to kids...sweet potato french fries, for example. Or if they love mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower or mashed sweet potatoes. Cut watermelon into hearts or star shapes with a cookie cutter.
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7.) Make it fun and interesting...ants on a log (celery stick, peanut butter with raisins lined up on top). There are other recipes on the internet and in cookbooks for kids.
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8.) Dip it. Raw celery sticks, carrot sticks, cauliflower, brocolli, zucchini sticks, cucumers, cherry tomatoes in ranch dressing or hummus dip.
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9.) Choose recipes for pancakes, muffins and sweet breads that contain carrots, raisins, zucchini, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bananas, applesauce, blueberries, cranberries, etc in the ingredients over plain pancakes or muffins.
10.) Make fruit smoothies.
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11.) Make fresh-squeezed juice with a juicer. You'll have lots of options and ways to combine fruits and vegetables. (I'm thinking of investing in one after we move.)
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12.) Make a fruit parfait in a parfait glass. (Yogurt, fresh fruit, granola topping)
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13.) Top pancakes, waffles, ice cream with homemade fruit syrup or just fresh fruit instead of maple syrup or hot fudge.
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14.) Try a pumpkin pie shake (recipe here).
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15.) It's not the best option, but pumpkin pies and fruit cobblers do count toward the servings of fruits and vegetables.
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16.) Serve with variety in mind. Make trying new foods a routine and start young - when you are introducing baby foods. I notice that I often get in a rut and have a preference for something unhealthy when we have a streak where we are eating unhealthy. I am guessing that a child who is used to eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese everyday is going to be more resistant toward trying new foods (including fruits and vegetables) than another child who is used to having new foods (including fruits and vegetables) presented to them on a regular basis.
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17.) Be positive and set a good example. Praise good eating habits.
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18.) Tell them why eating fruits and vegetables is good for them (in an age-appropriate kind of way, of course). If possible, get them involved in the growing or food preparation of the fruits and vegetables. I thought this article "First-grade gardeners more likely to taste vegetables" was very interesting. Even if you don't have a garden, you could go pick strawberries or apples together.
19.) Have raw fruits and vegetables readily available for snack options.
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20.) Keep trying. Don't give up. There is evidence that it takes 10-15 times of trying a new food to develop more positive preferences toward that food.
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So, is my lack of parenting experience showing? Is it harder than I think to get a picky child to try new foods and eat fruits and vegetables? Do you have any other suggestions? I think Mike is making progress - he even asked for a few green beans for dinner the other night and had a couple bites of asparagus tonight!
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Stay tuned for some of these recipe ideas on Meal Planner Mondays...

5 comments:

Joni said...

I am guilty of little or NO veggie for dinner. I am eating more fruit than I did (fruit cocktail isn't the best but it's something) on my yogurt I eat daily for my stomach (Activia). I'm with you Jen...is lack of parenting sound easier to get a kid to eat veggies? I agree with the "eat 3 beans tonight" and then slowly increase the number. I remember, too, growing up we would mix our corn with our mashed potatoes (not b/c of taste but I think I ate more corn that way - haha). I would also say - when in season - having corn on the cob...I always thought that was more fun to eat then corn kernels.

When we have kids..I'm sure I'll be asking for suggestions or doing research. :) But I agree that pureeing may be a GOOD idea...that is a lot of work. Plus, that doesn't seem to TEACH them to eat them if they don't know it's there. The "teaching" about fruits/veggies and picking/growing them I think would benefit - most kids want to eat an apple they JUST picked off the tree! :)

Julie said...

ok, so as a parent, I'll just say that I"m too lazy to do the work and we just tell them they have to eat it or no dessert. :) Is that mean? If it's something they REALLY don't like we'll substitute but normally we just give them a small portion. Our first born has learned to eat his plate clean even if he doesn't like it - we get lots of ugly faces and he drinks a lot in the process but the other two are learning the same. oh well - are we mean? I don't know. I"ve learned to like a lot of stuff since meeting Keith! just having it over and over... oh, & we do bugs on a log too (I can't even eat celery myself without that or dip)~ Isn't it crazy that Caleb hates peas??? Most kids will eat them simply b/c they're little cute green balls. He by far is our pickiest!

Jen said...

No, Julie, I think you do a great job getting the kids to eat fruits and vegetables. I certainly don't think that you are mean - that's just part of being the parent and teaching them to do what's right whether they like it or not.

Magic Mike said...

I don't remember God sending carrots, celery, and beans from the sky to Moses and the Israelites in the desert of Sinai...

Give me the meat and bread!

Joni said...

ok - so Mike isn't going to help much Jen in getting your kids to eat their fruit and veggies! :)