More on Happy Little Vegetables
a follow up to my last newsletter for all subscribers...
Apparently, I have lot to say on the subject of kids and their eating habits! Watch as I rattle off a few more ZoeFoodParty Method suggestions below. Call me crazy, but I like to think that this list can actually be applicable for anyone who describes their kid, or even themselves or a loved one as a selective eater.
None of these things are tit for tat suggestions. I am not naive or silly enough to believe that just because your kid sees a freaking onion grow or makes a dipping sauce themselves, that suddenly their eating habits will change overnight. Instead, the idea here is to encourage and nurture a variety of relationships with food and ingredients. To make the interactions they have along the way into play, into something you do together, to place emphasis on what is interesting and exciting about fresh ingredients, so that their experience with food isn’t just when they sit down at the table for mealtime. Hopefully over time this leads to more and more tastes and nibbles and attempts on their part, especially when it is so obviously on their own terms.
Seek produce that offers an activity built into the prepping or consumption of it. What do I mean? I am talking about fresh peas or beans that you have to work for because they are hiding in their shells, or the act of breaking down a whole pomegranate to snack on the juicy arils and maybe using the juices to finger paint (?) on a paper towel, or steamed artichokes and their leaves that go from thick and meaty to tender as you work your way through them. Bring these activities outside if you can, where they can throw skins or shells or vegetal discard on the ground. It’s telling your kids to go ahead and play with their food and let loose!
Grow something. Seeing the life cycle of a vegetable can be super cool and delicious. Even if all you have is a windowsill you can still do it. Leftover green onions are a great example! Once you’ve used up the green parts just put the roots into a small glass of water and watch them regenerate. Let your kids be in charge of them, let them use scissors to cut green onions into their eggs or just onto the cutting board.
Track down vegetables in different varieties or colors and do a tasting (blind tasting if your kid is older and would find that fun). Do yellow cherry tomatoes taste more yellow? Do they taste different than red ones? What about purple carrots vs. orange carrots? Snow peas versus sugar snap? Purple cauliflower and white cauliflower?
Get them their own cooking tools and keep them in a place they can reach by themselves. When I tell Loosha I need her help in the kitchen she runs to her drawer to grab what she needs. Loosha has her own a spatula, tongs, whisk, rolling pin, several knives, a small cutting board, you get the idea. Sometimes the excitement of her gathering her tools and readying her own prep station is enough to make her pay attention the ingredients differently. If I ask her to cut some butter with her own big girl knife - you better believe she’s eating most of it.
Get dippy with it. Mixing up a dip, especially one with peanut butter or tahina as is not only a great activity for kids to do by themselves while you get a meal ready, it’s also an optimal sauce for getting them to dip vegetables in. It’s thick and goopy and salty and hard not to love, even for a selective kid.
Foraging for kids might seem ultra scary to some of you but I swear there is nothing more encouraging and delightful for a child then them picking something they found on the ground and actually being allowed to eat it, (because as we know kids are always picking stuff off the ground and trying eat it!) Oxalis or sour grass is a great one to start with because it is literally a weed and has a lemony sweet flavor that most kids love. They can munch on the flowers or suck on the stems like a sour straw. Mustard flowers are fun too and tend to be a bountiful invasive species easy to identify.
Make eating your vegetables into something you talk about throughout the day. If Loosha and I are playing with her farm animals and I know that we are having cauliflower for dinner, then the story becomes that all her animals are in the barn munching on cauliflower. It sounds silly but just inserting into her games and then serving it later can be a mechanism for her making positive associations with the vegetable. I will also say aloud things like, “Ooooh, I can’t wait to eat some carrots with my snack- my body is craving vegetables today. How should we cut them later, into sticks or circles?”
Or maybe just grab them a ZFP t-shirt and they will morph into an easy going (not obnoxious) foodie before your very eyes!
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