My kid is 5 years old and still doesn’t want to eat vegetables. Nothing unusual about that, you might think. Well, the irony is in the fact that I am a holistic nutritionista. The irony is also in the fact that there is no unhealthy food in our entire house…there is nothing packaged in the cupboards, save some gluten-free crackers and brown rice pasta. Okay, and sardines and coconut milk. Whole foods. There is a farm on our kitchen deck, a juicer on the counter and a Vitamix for smoothies. Both produce drawers in the refrigerator are bulging, as we pick up our produce from our CSA farm every week.
And the darned kid prefers peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and chocolate. Oh, and butter…
These things are fine, but these things alone do not a healthy diet make.
So it is. Instead of kvetching and sighing at all the kids I know who love salad…I decide to do what I do! I mean- my whole goal as a health coach is to get people to be healthier through their diet and lifestyle, but in a way that works for them.
This may go against the whole parenting camp that says “they eat what’s in front of them or they don’t eat!”, but we all must pick our battles. I still put broccoli on the table and tell the child to eat it, but one broccoli spear does not a healthy child make. I do what I have to do to get the veggies IN!
If you can relate to this struggle, read on, dear reader….because I am going to share with you my top 5 vehicles for stealthily delivering fiber and nutrients (I’m talking about veggies) to my picky eater!
Smoothies and juices!
This is my favorite way to deliver the greens. Luckily, my son is not put off by beautiful shades of green, but if your child is, remember something we used to say when I was bartending my way through college: “When in dread, make it red!” Don’t put vodka in your kids smoothies- just try raspberries and strawberries (which happen to be low sugar fruits). When you put enough berries in with spinach, the smoothie remains red. Spinach also doesn’t alter the flavor of smoothies greatly, so this makes it a wonderful way to sneak in raw greenery.
We all know greens are paramount to good health, right? They are the pinnacle of fighting disease, detoxifying the blood and delivering essential vitamins and minerals.
Two of my favorites are what I call a “monkey shake” and a “mango lassi”. In the mango lassi, I use frozen mango, frozen banana, a touch of raw honey,water, kefir and greens (I tend to throw some herbals in, too, since I have them growing on my deck…favorites are tulsi and nasturtium leaves. Tulsi is calming, and nasturtium gives an immune boost. But you can stick with spinach.) This smoothie turns a delightful shade of green.
In the monkey shake I use frozen bananas, dates, raw cacao powder or carob, soaked cashews, peanut butter, a few greens and water. Just add ice for a chillier drink, and you can add any sort of powdered embellishments you like (gelatin, bee pollen, whey, etc.).
I say porridge because we use a lot of different grains to make hot breakfast cereal. A favorite is brown basmati rice. However you make your porridge or oatmeal, it’s all about the flavor additions! I keep canned pumpkin handy for this purpose. This adds a great serving of fiber and vitamin A. Once the porridge is ready, add the pumpkin puree with cinnamon and any other healthy additions. Peas porridge easy.
My kid totally loves pasta with meatballs and sauce. However, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really count the spaghetti sauce as a vegetable, so this is where I get sneaky again! Firstly, by adding diced or grated vegetables to the actual meatball. Finely grated zucchini, onion and carrot work well added to minced meat with herbs. Secondly, I add grated vegetables to the tomato sauce- whatever you can get away with.
Don’t be afraid of grass-fed butter. Grass-fed butter is naturally high in CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which is a polyunsaturated fat. CLA has been show to reduce risk of certain diseases, including cancer and Type II Diabetes. It also helps to maintain healthy fat storage and utilization (many adults take CLA supplements for weight loss). This will not make your kid lose weight- it will simply help them to keep a healthy weight. Also, growing children need healthy fats for brain development. One way I can get my kid to eat straight up vegetables is to make sure they’re soft, and drown them in butter. Peas and carrots in butter sauce, for the win! (For the record, my son is thin and muscular, and has been eating grass-fed butter by the chunk-ful since birth.)
Bribery and Dessert!
Seriously, I know this goes against many parenting styles, but if you have a difficult kid- you probably understand where I am coming from. I can usually get my child to eat any vegetable by promising dessert. But, here’s the rub—I keep the desserts super healthy and homemade! This way, it’s really a win-win situation…he eats the healthy veggies, and he eats some more nutrition for dessert.
What do I mean by healthy dessert? Well, we do a lot of paleo baking here, so that means the desserts don’t contain grain carbs, and no sugar. The treats are often sweetened with food- like dates, bananas or coconut sugar. Coconut sugar has a high mineral content and has a low glycemic load…this means it does not spike your blood sugar levels like cane sugar (or, ew, corn syrup), and instead metabolizes slowly and steadily. In addition, if you add healthy fats, this further slows down sugar metabolism- which is the issue with eating sugar (insulin and diabetes and all that).
Vanilla chia pudding is the only thing my son knows about vanilla pudding, and it’s nuts, vanilla, dates and chia seeds! Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and this offers many health benefits, including good brain development.
Another trick of a dessert is banana ice cream! You can literally make a sweet delicious ice cream using just a banana! Have you ever tried this? You need frozen bananas and a food processor or Vitamix. You blend the frozen bananas until smooth and creamy, refreeze a bit…boom! Add some chocolate chips, and the kid thinks it’s his birthday…and I got him to eat salad AND a banana. Go, plants!
So, you catch my drift? If dessert is healthy- you have no worries.
I sure hope my coaching strategies will help you get more greens in to your little love…