Mrs.Frizzle approach to Veggies
If you’re like me, Mrs.Frizzle and the Magic School Bus were staples in my childhood. She was there to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” As I was thinking about vegetables, that same voice came into my head about how to get kids to have an arsenal of veggies to eat as they grow up.
Before we go any further, I want to say that I am a big proponent of balance. Kids need to learn balance… no birthday cake, ice cream, chocolate-covered peanuts?!? That’s crazy talk! Those things are treats and should be treated as such. So going back to the original question of “What does healthy mean?” It’s about feeling your best and making the best choices most of the time. Those choices should go towards whole foods with minimal processing.
For example, a plate can have grilled chicken strips, carrots and green beans, and a handful of strawberries. This could be someone’s example of a healthy plate. For someone else maybe it is black beans, lettuce, and ground beef in a tortilla. The idea that one size fits all is not going to be pleasant for most people. (I love rice, broccoli, avocado, and chicken but my friend only likes the rice in that meal.)
As a kid, some choice in the matter is a good idea. Would you rather have watermelon or an apple? Cucumber or asparagus? Turkey or edamame? (My nephew loves edamame and might be made out of it by now.) From Precision Nutrition, a strategy called red, yellow, and green light foods is a way to think about food options that help us make the best choice. In my opinion, kids will benefit from that. It is a living document (because tastes change) and things can be added, shifted, or taken off.
So now you may be wondering, “Where do I start?” or “They have rejected every vegetable I’ve put in front of them.” The big thing with a lot of vegetables is that you can begin to like them with more practice. Part of trying new things is that it’s a little scary. Do the kids like to watch a sport? There could be walkout music and hype for trying a new vegetable.
For choosing a challenger, I would start with something they like and go a little more bitter (see hyperlink below for a gradient). If that is no vegetable, the sweeter ones are a good start (carrots and peanut butter are *chef's kiss*). So how do we minimize bitterness? We pair it with a fat (olive oil, butter, bacon, etc) or something sweet (maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar) or something spicy (chilis, salsa, cumin). I tend to stick in those categories but sour is also an option. and Precision Nutrition has an infographic that does an amazing job at giving steps for trying and preparing vegetables. One of my favorite things to do is brussel sprouts, bacon, and honey. The sweet, salty, fatness helps with the bitterness that I am attuned to in brussel sprouts. Another one is using cumin, paprika, and salt on red peppers, onions, and mushroom… HELLO TACO VEGGIES!
At the end of the day, the effort is where we should focus. If there was a magic gateway into liking vegetables, it probably would have been found by now. So for now a vegetable is better than no vegetables and an attempt to find vegetables they like is better than no attempt. So put your best utensil forward, get the hype music ready, and let’s get those foods into the hands, and hearts of our kids!
My snack today.
and Bolthouse farm ranch dressing