Rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids, chlorophyll, and ample protein, dark, green leafy vegetables are super nutritional powerhouses. Just how do you get your family to relish them? We asked several mothers whose children DO eat greens to share what worked for them. We hope that you will find their creative and wise tips helpful!
Rosalie Djami, RN:
For six-month old babies or older, try mixing the vegetables with some breast milk, gradually reducing the amount of the milk until the baby becomes familiar with the taste of the new food. When our first child, Kathleen, was born, she was first given only breast milk. At seven months, I began to introduce solid foods such as rice. But I noticed that she did not like it and spat it out. So I had a bright idea: I mixed the rice with the breast milk and she ate it all! I then tried my “recipe” with pureed squash and again, she ate it all. Next, I decided to try pureed peas alone; out it came! So I mixed it with breast milk and—she wanted more! Gradually I decreased the amount of breast milk until she became familiar with the tastes of the new foods.
Tip 1: Serve greens or vegetables with a topping that your child likes, such as a sauce, salad dressing, or vegan cheese.
As Kathleen grew, I wanted to begin introducing different kinds of greens to her, since the breast-milk “company” was shutting down. No more breast milk, so the greens were served plain. But I noticed that she only ate the kinds that she liked. So here is another simple idea that God gave to me. One lunch I served vegetables mixed with peanut sauce. Kathleen really ate her vegetables with gusto that day! I continued preparing vegetables this way and she continued to clean her plate, right down to the very last drop of the peanut sauce! As time went on, I decreased the amount of sauce, until she had graduated to eating the vegetables plain.
When our second daughter was born, I followed the same program. Praise God, both the children have had no problem eating their veggies! I believe that God has all the help and inspiration that mothers need, including methods of encouraging your children to eat healthfully!
Here are some ways that we use at home to encourage our children to eat greens or salad: For fresh salads, choose tender leaves that are not bitter and tear them into small pieces. My children eat their salad more readily when I mix it with a dressing, such as cold-pressed virgin, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice, before serving.
Tip 2: Chop the greens, especially coarser ones like collards and kale, finely and cook them until tender in a little bit of water, garlic, salt, and coconut milk.
My children’s favorite dish, that they ask me to fix for them very often, is spinach quiche on a whole wheat crust. Yummy! They always ask for seconds, then thirds … until it is gone!
Verna Chuljian: At our home we chose to raise our four children on a non-processed, pure vegetarian diet. They are now in their teens. We praise God that they have grown into healthy, energetic young people. Our children, however, did not initially like greens, so we were not without some challenges. But the plan that we implemented worked very well. Greens were a must—the children needed the calcium and all the other valuable nutrients they contained. Be a good example and relish the foods you want your child to like. Enthusiasm is contagious.
First, how well do you like your greens? Our example as parents goes much farther than what we say. Keep a regular mealtime schedule, and teach by precept and example to take nothing but ample water between meals. Next, it is important to keep the regular schedule. Our children need to be encouraged to drink plenty of water and avoid snacking between meals. This will assure that their appetite will generally be keen when mealtime comes around, thus setting the scene for more hearty cooperation with eating the menu provided.
Tip 3: Serve the greens at the beginning of the meal.
We simply fed them greens first—when their appetite was the keenest. With other veggies, we gave them a little more leeway as long as their nutritional needs were met. If they didn’t prefer a certain food, we would allow them a substitute if practical and readily available. If not, we just, as with the greens, served it first. This approach gave the children room for their personal tastes and won many of our battles. ) Try new recipes and methods of preparation. I would also try to think of some creative way to prepare the greens or any other food that they thought they didn’t like. One of the children didn’t like beans. So I made “camping beans,” served with oil free, baked corn chips. Presto! No more bean trouble—even if they weren’t actually cooked over an open campsite fire! For the greens, we made greens “pizza.” Smothered with homemade pimento cheese or some tasty sauce that the children really liked, this recipe served to get them over the hump. We didn’t do it this way always; bread and greens always taste good together, and pizza was simply especial favorite. ) Remember, taste is cultivated!
Eating habits are a learned behavior. Tastes can be shaped and reshaped. For my husband and I seasonal foods such as eggplant, summer squash, okra and similar vegetables were delicious. We asked no more of the children except that they taste it. “We’ll be happy to eat it if you don’t like it,” we assured them. When they saw our enthusiasm and agreeableness even if they did not eat it freely, it became a non-issue. By the next year the children had generally forgotten that they didn’t like those particular foods, and it was not long before they, too, shared our enthusiasm.
Tip 4: Involve your children in growing and cooking vegetables. They will be much more inclined to eat them! We also found that getting the children involved was invaluable. One of the most exciting activities a child can do is grow some vegetables—even if it is only in a flowerpot on the porch. It is so simple, they learn so much, and their little heads are not going to be nearly so stubborn because–they helped to grow and prepare the foods served!