A Note to Parents:
Veggies often get a bad rap. It's difficult for them to compete with sugary or high-fat foods that come in flashy packages. Yet, our bodies prefer veggies since they provide a lot of nutrition in their natural package. The bright colors of vegetables are due to the phytonutrients they contain. When you eat fruits and vegetables, the phytonutrients are easily absorbed to provide the maximum health benefits. Sometimes, all it takes is seeing mom or dad eat their veggies for a child to want to eat his or hers. Introduce a vegetable often, even if your child refuses it. It can take up to 10 times for a child to see a food before he will try it. Research suggests that forcing a child to eat foods may lead to a greater aversion to trying them and eating them in the future.
- Trip to the grocer y store and/or farmer's market.
- Table of quality vegetable characteristics.
Use a trip to the grocery store or the farmers' market as an oppor tunity to teach your child about selecting the highest quality of each vegetable. Star t when you are making your grocer y list and include your child by telling him or her that you will need help selecting the best tomatoes, bell peppers, or broccoli. Once you arrive at the produce section of the market, use the Table to coach your child in selecting the best vegetables. For example, tell your 6-year-old that the tomatoes she selects should be firm and heavy. Ask your 8-year-old to select broccoli stalks that are tightly closed, bright green and aren't dried out at the bottom.
Give vegetables silly names. A child may be interested in trying "green trees for elves" more than broccoli.
Plant a small vegetable garden. Your children will be so proud to serve the family something that they've grown from seed or star ter plant, and it will keep them involved and excited about vegetables. When you visit the farmers' market, see if your child can make a connection with a farmer who grows the same thing that she is growing at home.
Table of Quality Vegetable Characteristics
|Beans (Snap)||A fresh, bright appearance with good color for the variety. Get young, tender beans with pods in a firm, crisp condition.|
|Broccoli||A firm, compact cluster of small flower buds. Bud clusters should be dark green or sage green - or even green with a decidedly purplish cast. Stems should not be too thick or too tough.|
|Carrots||Should be well formed, smooth, well colored, and firm. If tops are attached, they should be fresh and of a good green color.|
|Celery||Should be fresh and crisp.|
|Cucumbers||Good green color and firm over their entire length. They should be well developed, but not too large in diameter.|
|Romaine Lettuce||Tall and cylindrical with crisp, dark-green leaves in a loosely folded head.|
|Bell Peppers||Deep, characteristic color, glossy sheen, relatively heavy weight, and firm walls or sides.|
|Sweet Potatoes||Should be firm with smooth, bright uniformly colored skins, free from signs of decay. Because they are more perishable than white potatoes, extra care should be used in selecting sweet potatoes.|
|Tomatoes||Smooth, well ripened, and free from blemishes. For tomatoes slightly less then fully ripe, look for firm texture and color ranging from pink to light red.|
Tips for Parents:
When children say they are hungry while dinner is being prepared, offer them vegetables such as small celery or carrot sticks to snack on. This helps offering vegetables more often than just when dinner is served. Also, with dinner, there are other foods to choose from.
Try offering carrot sticks with a little ranch dressing for dipping or a thin layer of peanut butter inside the celery sticks to increase the appeal for children who refuse to try. If this is the only snack offered, after several offerings, a child might try it and decide he or she actually likes it.