Our family loves having a dog! While it may not be the right choice for every family to add a pet, having a dog has brought our family much happiness, fun, and good bugs to add to our gut micro-biome! It is a great way to stay consistent with daily exercise as we walk our dog Coco twice a day. In addition, our floor is soooo clean…. 🙂 especially when we accidentally drop kale onto the floor! We have gotten a kick out of seeing which healthy foods our dog is willing to eat. (There are of course many healthy people foods like avocado and onions you should never give a dog, so please check with your veterinarian for a complete list). Our dog loves kale, carrots, sweet potato, cucumber, salmon, chicken and of course meat. For some reason, our pup will not go for zucchini which we find quite amusing given her very varied palate. Why am I offering so many details about my dog’s love of veggies? Well, one day I began thinking about the many ways my kids have come to eat and love veggies and interestingly enough, it is quite similar to how my dog has come to expand her palate. While there are of course some differences between kids and dogs, I hope to offer you some new ways to begin incorporating veggies in your kids diet, even for you pickiest eater.
TIP # 1 SAY NOTHING, CREATE CURIOSITY.
What exactly does that mean? Well, if I am sitting on my couch relaxing and eating a snack, it is inevitable that my adorable pup will make her way over to investigate what I am eating and try to get a nibble. I can think of so many times I have had the same experience with my children. How many of us have finally sat down to eat a meal, (the same meal our kids would normally reject), only then, to have them sit next to us and start asking for a taste. Therefore, if you are trying out new foods yourself, don’t necessarily offer them to your kids right away. Create some curiosity and let them come to you and ask “what are you eating?” and give them space to ask you for a taste. Another way to “say nothing”, is to just cut up veggies and leave them on the table with a healthy dip. Again, I emphasize, SAY NOTHING. On their own, the kids may take a taste as they walk by the table. Even if they completely ignore the plate of veggies on a Tuesday, try putting them out again on a Thursday and just casually observe their reaction.
TIP # 2 EXPERIMENT
Interestingly enough, although I said my dog won’t eat zucchini….it is not entirely true. Apparently, my very fancy dog will eat a piece of zucchini if it has been cooked! This brings me to my next tip of Experiment. I’ve always been fascinated with how the same food can taste so different prepared in various ways. For example, a carrot can be roasted, steamed, sautéed or eaten raw. It can be really fun to prepare the same veggie 4 different ways and have the kids compare the different flavors. You may find that they would never eat a veggie raw, but once it was roasted, this same kid becomes your biggest veggie fan. Coming back to my dog’s favorite veggie kale, it is important to keep in mind that there is a big difference in the flavor of kale depending on how it was prepared. Raw kale can often taste bitter and rough, however, chopped raw kale, massaged in olive oil or lemon juice, tastes tender and sweet. Kale boiled then sautéed with a little garlic, oil and sea salt also has an entirely new flavor. Crunchy kale chips that have been roasted in the oven can be quite addictive! For about 2 years one of my children only ate kale if it was boiled and sautéed, but now, this same child is grabbing bites from my raw kale salad.
TIP # 3 GET KIDS INVOLVED
As I have discussed in past blogs, getting kids involved in the food preparation process is a great opportunity for random tastes and nibbles. In addition, when a child has been involved in the cooking process, it is often exciting for them to eat a meal they helped to prepare. In addition, getting kids involved in the shopping process is also valuable. If your kids are encouraged to pick out a new veggie at the store, they will usually be more likely to try it out at home. The first time we tried this one of my children picked out a coconut! Although it was not a vegetable, his enthusiasm about trying out something new was quite contagious, fun and memorable!
TIP #4 MAKE IT LOOK APPEALING
What a blessing that fruits and vegetables are so beautiful and colorful! There is something attractive about a plate with a variety of different veggies cut up looking like a piece of art. Peppers come in many different colors of yellow, red, orange, purple and green. Carrots can be orange, purple, or white. Radishes have such a striking pink/magenta color that I just love! Red cabbage which is really more of a purple shade also adds such beauty to a plain salad. In our family, we cut up our veggies on a Sunday and have hummus and homemade dips readily available. There are so many different flavors of hummus including roasted garlic, spinach hummus, roasted red pepper and olive hummus. While it would be nice if we all had time to make our own hummus, this is not always realistic. When looking for hummus to purchase, check out Trader Joe’s. They have a variety of hummus with minimal to no preservatives or unhealthy oils. Avoid preservatives like Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate and Phosphoric acid. In addition avoid oils such as soybean, canola and corn which are almost always GMO (genetically modified) and sprayed with lots of pesticides. Making your own dip is much easier than it seems. I often take a small container of homemade or store bought mayo and add my spices directly into the container, mix them up and label the jar as a dip. Some brands of mayo that I like include, Chosen Foods Avocado Mayo, Primal Kitchen Avocado Mayo, and Tessemae’s brand. Please see below for a very simple dip recipe!
TIP # 5 DON’T ASSUME
We were quite surprised when we saw our dog was such a veggie addict! The dogs our family had been exposed to would never eat any veggies. Just because you personally do not like a particular vegetable, do not assume your kids will not like it as well. Make a variety of veggies, even ones you don’t like, because your kids’ palate may be very different from yours. When choosing vegetables buying all organic is ideal, but that is not always within our budgets. Use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 as guides. The Dirty Dozen is a list of veggies that are considered to have the most pesticides, so that is your list of veggies to try to always buy organic. The Clean 15 are those fruits and veggies considered to have the least exposure to pesticides. Pesticides, known to be hormone disrupters, have been linked to many health conditions including reproductive disorders, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative conditions, certain types of cancer and much more. In addition pesticides disrupt the good microbes in the soil that populate our gut micro biome, the home for a large part of our immune system. (Please see below for the updated 2017 lists of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15)
TIP # 6 EXPOSE THEM YOUNG
Ideally we want to expose our kids to a variety of fruits and veggies at a young age. Your child can develop a diverse palate and eating veggies for that child can become the norm. I wish I could say that I was that Mom who exposed their children to lots of veggies at a young age. However, our family is living proof that all is not lost if your kids were not exposed to a variety of veggies at a young age. This is coming from me, a now veggie addict, whose previous experience of eating broccoli was holding my nose and chewing to avoid the flavor.
TIP # 7 DON’T GIVE UP.
It takes time to enjoy new foods. Studies show that it often takes trying a new food TEN times before we begin to develop a taste for it. I know our family is still hopeful that even our dog will one day like raw zucchini!!
I would love to hear from you regarding your struggles and triumphs regarding veggies and children (and dogs 😉 )!!
Now Go, Love You, Jill 🙂
1 Jar of Mayonnaise about 12 ounces (Primal Kitchen, Tessemae’s, Chosen Foods Avocado Mayo)
1-2 Tablespoons of Mustard
1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (water can be substituted)
Onion powder, garlic powder to taste
Optional: 1-2 teaspoons honey
Optional (pick one) : Dill, Chives, Celery seed
The 2017 Dirty Dozen (Preferable to buy these Organic)
- Sweet Bell Peppers
The Clean 15 (Least likely to be contaminated with Pesticides)
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
PLEASE NOTE: SOME SWEET CORN AND PAPAYAS SOLD IN THE USA ARE GMOs , SO CHOOSE ORGANIC TO AVOID GMO VERSIONS OF THESE CROPS.