I am often asked how my kids and their food preferences fit into the picture of a healthy home. Just today, my friend Lisa Z. e-mailed me and asked, "Do your kids and Randy eat the veggies? I have a hard time getting Rob and the girls to try new healthy things." I've got some thoughts on this issue and I'm sure you do too. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE YOUR STRATEGIES FOR COOKING FOR KIDS AS A COMMENT BELOW.
1. Make what your kids want and like . . . I tried it the other way. It didn't work. My 5 year old started going to dinner every night at my neighbor's house, for months. I was very sad. So I just started to make what her and my 2 year old son will eat, which is anything and everything with pasta in it. Macaroni-n-cheese, spagetti and meatballs, cheese ravioli, noodles with butter . . . pretty boring after a while. But they want it. And I want them to feel like their needs are being met in their own home. What I do make a point of doing is putting cut-up fruit and vegetables on the table along with their pasta. Their favorite right now is strawberries, and they seem to eat a lot less of whatever pasta I make and a substantial amount of the fruit/vegetables . . . but serve it along with simple things that you want them to eat.
2. Disguise it. This is a great way to introduce your kids to new flavors without them even knowing it. My friend Jill K has been experimenting with this concept lately. "Here’s a smoothie I made for the kids (and me). I am not watching the sugar content, I just want to find a way for my kids to eat some veggies and more fruit. The kids had no clue that a beet was in it."
Can’t Be Beet!—a Smoothie
I raw beet peeled
½ cup apple juice
½ cup skim milk
½ cup blue berries
Vanilla yogurt (5 oz give or take)
Flax seed grounds
About 8 ice cubes
This works! There have been entire cookbooks written about it. My kids are eating Dr. Fuhrman's Black Bean Brownies every night since I have made them, and I want them to eat them! And I don't particularly like them. When I tasted the batter I was worried that they wouldn't taste sweet, so I did add about 1/3 cup of agave syrup to the recipe to make them sweeter. http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/recipes-black-bean-brownies-for-valentines.html
Black Bean Brownies
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 (15 oz.) can of salt-free black beans (drain liquid)
1 large handful of sunflower seeds or 1 T. ground flaxseed
1 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups pitted dates (chopped)
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup walnuts (optional)
Put the first six ingredients in a food processor. Turn it on and then gradually add the 2 cups of chopped dates, a few at a time until blended. Add the flour and continue to mix until everything is well blended. Turn off the machine, remove the blade, and stir in the nuts (if using). Spread into a 13” x 9” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Notes: Taste batter and if it is not sweet enough for you, add a little more agave syrup. You can double the recipe, put the batter into the 13” x 9” stoneware pan, and increase the baking time to 55 minutes. This will make 24, chewy brownies.
3. Your husband should eat whatever you put in front of him, or he needs to cook for himself. I know this sound harsh, but you are already busy enough. And don't use the excuse that if your husband and kids won't eat it then you can't take the time to make it. If you don't take care of yourself, no one will. Make yourself and your health your number 1 priority (I'll write a post about that later!). If your husband has a hard time eating fruits and vegetables, do him a favor and get him a copy of either The China Study or Eat to Live. After reading either of those books, you can't help but want to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can. It's healthy brainwashing!
4. As your kids get older, their tastes will change. Yes, it will eventually happen. My 10 year old daughter eats and likes just about everything that I make. And you guys know what's in what I am making! So it is important that you model for your children what healthy eating looks like. If they don't see you doing it, how will they know what it is?