The struggle is real, moms! Getting our families to eat more veggies in a fast paced world full of convenience foods is hard work. While I won’t claim to have this all figured out, I can confidently say that we are moving in a positive direction as a family towards having a healthier lifestyle. Want to know how? Read on!
I buy veggies. It’s simple, if there are not vegetables in the house, I won’t be cooking them. I mean plan for 5 weeks at time (you can read more about that here!) and I do my very best to strategically plan for fresh, canned, and frozen vegetable consumption. I shop twice a month for fresh produce, so at the beginning of the plan I allow for lots of fresh veggies (think asparagus, squash, lettuce, spinach, brussels sprouts, etc.) and as the weeks go on I use more canned and frozen produce (like green beans, corn, beans, and broccoli).
I cook veggies. Buying them is all well and good, but they don’t benefit us at all if they sit and rot in the fridge! Meal planning with recipes and a calendar really helps with this as well, but even if that’s just not for you, having at least a mental plan of what vegetables you’re going to incorporate into your meals will go a long way in helping you to utilize all that great produce you just bought. I try to incorporate at least one vegetable into each dinner.
I keep vegetables around for snacking. Along the same lines as above, if it’s not in my house it won’t be eaten. I try to always have on hand carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers for snacking. My daughter loves dipping them into hummus and a ranch-flavored yogurt dressing. I try to offer fresh veggies as a snack option as much as possible. Sure, we also snack on fruit, crackers, cheese, and yogurt, and sometimes even chips and popcorn (gasp!), but it’s all about balance!
I don’t force my daughter to eat veggies. Toddlers, and really children of all ages, have an innate desire to not do whatever it is we want them to do. If I try to force my daughter to eat anything, even pizza or fruit, she’s just not going to do it. Therefore, I provide deliciously prepared vegetables at every meal and do not require my daughter to eat them all. The rule in our house is that everyone has to try everything. If she really doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat it, but she has to try it and her serving will remain on her plate. It only took cooking and serving brussels sprouts about a hundred times, but now my daughter will eat them!
I sneak in bonus veggies. While I think it’s important that our entire family come to terms with the fact that we need to make the conscious choice to eat our vegetables, sometimes hiding them in our food is a great way to sneak even more nutrition into our meals. For example, I serve salad a lot (especially with pasta and soup dishes) so if we’re already eating the salad I might as well shred a little bit of carrot into those salads to hitch a ride on the lettuce, right?! I also add a bit of shredded carrot to chili and spaghetti sauce. I’m not crazy about beans, but when I make tacos I hide black beans from myself by mixing in a half a can with 1 pound of ground beef. When I make Spinach and Ricotta Pasta I’ll often cut up some yellow squash into half moons and add it in with the spinach mixture while cooking. Bonus veggies!
But my absolute favorite way to sneak in bonus veggies is with Garden Lites muffins. They can be found in the freezer section of your nearest Publix, Stop & Shop, Giant, Shop-Rite, HEB, Costco, and Kroger and they are awesome! Not only are they gluten-free and dairy-free, they are packed with veggies! Take for example the chocolate chip muffins. Just look at those ingredients- the very first ones are zucchini and carrots! I enjoy eating them for breakfast (especially a breakfast on the go like when we’re running out the door to church or a playdate!) and my daughter loves them for snacks. She thinks she’s getting a treat and I know she’s getting great nutrition, so everyone wins!
How to do get your family to eat more veggies? I’d love to get more tips from you!