Gluten-Free Cooking Expert Carol Fenster Offers Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables

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Gluten-free cooking expert, Carol Fenster, author of 10 gluten-free cookbooks—including 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes and the President/Founder of Savory Palate, LLC—offers tips for getting kids to eat more vegetables.

Carol Fenster offers tips for getting kids to eat vegetables.

Kids are more likely to eat veggies if they’re easy to get at and ready for eating. - Carol Fenster, author of 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes

“Many families are trying to eat more vegetables these days,” says Carol Fenster, author of 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes. “But getting the kids to eat their vegetables can be challenging, so here are some tips to make vegetables more appealing.”

Make Veggies Accessible.
Kids are more likely to eat veggies if they’re easy to get at and ready for eating. So, have a stash of kid-friendly, ready-to-eat veggies in the fridge such as baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper slices, broccoli flowerets, and zucchini sticks.

Offer Veggies As After-School Snacks And In Lunch-Boxes.
Have a plate of raw veggies ready for the kids when they come home from school, rather than calorie-laden, trans-fat packed cookies, chips, and other processed foods. Raw veggies also pack well for school lunches.

Make Veggies An Addition, Not A Substitution
Nobody wants favorite foods taken away. If the kids are meat-lovers, keep the meat but use meat as more of a condiment. For example, tacos can still contain a small amount of ground beef but offer other veggie filings such as sautéed bell peppers and onions—with guacamole or pico de gallo as add-ons.

Hide Pureed Veggies In Food
Add veggies to morning smoothies. A blueberry smoothie is already dark purple, so additional veggies like beets, bell peppers, and broccoli in small amounts will not be noticeable. Start out slowly, gradually making veggies a larger proportion of the total smoothie.

Pureed vegetables can be incorporated into meat loaf, meatballs, casseroles, and spaghetti sauce. Use pureed butternut squash or pumpkin in creamy soups like carrot or tomato. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that veggie intake nearly doubled when kids ate vegetable-enhanced foods—and the kids didn’t even know it.

Dress Up Veggies.
Serve veggies with dips such as hummus or ranch salad dressing or guacamole. A light dusting of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, or a sprinkle of hot sauce perks up bland veggies like avocado wedges.

Make It Fun.
Serve veggies in creative ways or interesting shapes, with fun utensils. For example, use a straw to drink soup, serve broccoli florets as “trees” on top of mashed potato mountains, or arrange veggies on whimsical plates. A clever presentation will be much more enticing to a child than a plain one.

Let The Kids Help.
Kids can wash the veggies (older kids can also peel them) or arrange them on a plate and decide where the plate is placed on the dinner table. Involvement gives kids a greater interest in what they eat.

Show Kids Where Veggies Come From.
Visit a farmer’s market to see what fresh vegetables look like without fancy packaging. Better yet, visit a real farm. Let kids choose veggies for tonight’s dinner and help prepare them, discussing what they learned about vegetables that day. If possible, let kids plant and then harvest veggies in their own garden.

Don't Give Up.
It can take five or more tries before kids accept new foods. Don’t take rejections personally; that turns food into a battleground. Try presenting veggies in different ways: perhaps raw at first, then later lightly steamed or roasted. Roasted asparagus dusted with Parmesan cheese tastes quite different from plain steamed asparagus. Recent research shows that kids were more likely to eat vegetables misted with sugar water so that’s yet another approach to try.

“Interest in a plant-based diet has grown so much that we now offer at least 3 plant-based menus each week at my weekly online cookbook at GfreeCuisine,” says Fenster. “Everywhere you look there is an article touting the benefits of eating more vegetables, so these tips are meant to help parents achieve that goal for their kids,” she adds.

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Carol Fenster

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