Veggies, veggies, veggies … the bane of many a parent’s (mother’s) life, of trying to encourage children to eat their veggies! But I must admit in our household we have managed to ensure non-fussy eaters, with a simple policy of “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it!” For us, it has been one of those tough-love areas, which has paid enormous dividends, as today we can put almost any food in front of our munchkins, and they’ll gobble it down. But that parenting philosophy doesn’t suit every family.
So what’s with the big to-do over veggies anyhow?? “Vegetables” is just a culinary term that means the edible parts of plants. Mushrooms (fungi), nuts seeds, grains, herbs and spices are also not considered vegetables as such … but we throw them all into the melting pot, because “vegetables” is not a scientifically botanical term.
But what the heck is it about veggies that are so jolly important, necessary, and unable to be obtained from other food sources? Simple: Nutrition. That is, vegetables contain high levels of vitamins (organic nutrients we need essential small doses of), and minerals (essential compounds that support human life). Vegetables are now also being studied for their phenomenal health-promoting, therapeutic, and little understood “phytochemicals” – that is, minute chemical ingredients that are antioxidants (anti-aging), antimicrobials (antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal) and anticarcinogenics (anti-cancer).
Vegetables are also full of fiber or “roughage”. Roughage is the cellulose cell-wall plant-fiber, which is primarily insoluble (indigestible) to humans. However, our colon (large intestine) needs such dietary fiber as a bulking agent to soften stools (poo), assisting its movement along the digestive tract, to be able to form defecatable faeces (not constipative hard rocks). Dietary fiber is also an important disease inhibiter, and so fiber-rich foods are an important part of keeping us healthy … yada, yada, yada.
But, back at the “real world” of the family dinner table with fussing children, what are some great ways to encourage vegetable eating? Well a first option, is simply a matter of making healthy foods the only options, and junk-food treats only an option after the healthy foods are finished. The benefit of teaching children to willingly eat their veggies, will pay huge dividends in their ongoing health and wellbeing … so just be reassured to know, that teaching healthy eating is just one more of our endless parenting responsibilities, aye!
Summer vegetables traditionally include asparagus, avocados, beans, beets, capsicums (peppers), celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, radish, sugar snap, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini (courgettes). Plus other slightly lesser known summer vegetables including kale (collards), rocket (arugula), okra (gumbo), and the beet Swiss chard.
Sometimes in our household, I’ll serve the traditional Western style plate of meat, starch and veggies – and sometimes the veggies are combined into one pot with the protein and starch. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but as a really general rule: An adult’s plate should be about ¼ protein, ¼ starch, ½ veggies; and a child’s plate should be about one-third of each … well that’s a general rule-of-thumb.
Below are some creative and super-easy ways of serving veggies you might like to try:
Use wonton wrappers to make homemade ravioli filled with finely chopped cooked veggies – a great one to get the kids involved with – placing filling on one sheet, topped with another sheet, and edges crimped with a fork. Great use of leftover veggies, and ideal served with a heated can of Italian Tomatoes poured over-top, and sprinkled parmesan cheese.
Cook a little beef mince seasoned to your taste (I like to add onion, beef stock, pepper, tomato paste, paprika, cinnamon, brown sugar, lime juice, coriander, chili powder, ground cumin, Tabasco and ground linseed). Add a can of mild-chili red-kidney beans, a can of mild refried beans, a can of corn, and can of Mexican tomatoes. Put a great dollop on top of nacho corn chips with grated cheese to grill, then add sour cream and guacamole. And voila – a delish concoction that’s pretty jolly healthy. This is my most popular dinner I serve for kids sleepovers – they nearly all love it!
Note: Adding grated carrots and shredded lettuce makes it ideal for Tacos.
Combine black beans, zucchini, capsicum and cheese folded into tortillas to enjoy a fabulous tasting quesadilla!
Spread tomato paste over the pizza bases, and put an array of vegetable toppings out for the kids to choose from to design their own pizza. (Baked beans and pineapple particularly works – yes I know, it sounds strange!) Then add cheese and grill. Yum!
Combined tub of pesto with can of Italian tomatoes and can of cannellini beans, then serve over penne pasta sprinkled with parmesan. Mmmmm
Bake the spuds, scoop out the middle and mash with finely chopped fried onion, spring onions, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, corn, and sour-cream – then sprinkle with cheese and grill.
Make your favourite curry – butter chicken does tend to be a big hit – then add small can of coconut milk and cooked chopped spinach (frozen varieties are great). Serve with basmati rice & microwaved pappadums.
MIDDLE EASTERN PITA POCKETS
Cook lamb mince to your taste (I like to add onion, chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, castor-sugar, coriander, mint, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, saffron, ground linseed, pine-nuts, raisins, plus loads of parsley and turmeric). Add can of Moroccan tomatoes and can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), then let the kids fill their own wholemeal pita pockets, served with Greek yoghurt and hummus. Mouth-watering!
At the end of the day, remember that there are millions of children on this planet who are culturally or philosophically being raised vegetarian, and they’re happily and healthily munching away. So it is our job to ensure our children don’t become yet more of the nuggets-and-chips-only or canned-spaghetti-only variety of picky kids.