There’s nothing like a plate load of fresh veg to incite dinnertime battles between kids and grown-ups. To parents, those helpings of crunchy carrots, crisp broccoli florets or sugar snap peas are perfect servings of all the vitamins and minerals their kids need to grow up strong and healthy. To kids, they’re simply the enemy that must be avoided at all costs! As any parent with young children knows, battles over beans can range from Mexican style standoffs to outright war; both equally exhausting at the end of a long day.
Thankfully generations of parents previously have developed creative ways to get kids eating their veg while maintaining a mealtime armistice. These methods range from disguising veg as kid-friendly dishes to getting kids genuinely fired up about eating peas and carrots (it really is possible!).
Parents in the know advocate one of the best ways to get kids on friendlier terms with veg is to involve them in the entire preparation and cooking process. This is certainly possible with older children. Laure Perriot, Fields’ Marketing Manager, French Expat and mother of two, cooks as often as possible with her eldest daughter. “When she has helped me prepare the vegetables, she is always keen to try them,” Laure says. “But if she’s played no part in cooking them, she’s not interested! So I try to involve her in the kitchen as much as possible and even in preparing the menu.”
For parents keen to try this approach, we’ve prepared an easy spaghetti meatball recipe that highlights which parts kids can contribute and where parents will need to lend a helping hand. The beauty of this dish is the large number of vegetables hidden within it, which tricks kids into eating more than they think they should!
Younger kids can also play a role in preparing foods that involve lots of veg but less hot stove or knife encounters! Our Funny Faces recipe is a perfect way to get them excited about cherry tomatoes and bell peppers. Simply use these and other veg to decorate bread or crackers with smiley, sad or grumpy features. The best part for kids is eating their artwork once their done. Laure says she often allows her daughters to decorate a hearty mashed veg dish with a tomato ketchup smiley face and this simple trick always makes them happy about eating their dinner.
If you don’t have time each evening to cook with your kids, there are other ways to give them their five a day in a fuss free fashion. Starting a dinner with dips is an excellent way of doing this. Cutting veg into shapes is an easy way to make dipping more fun. And making a game out of this makes the whole experience so entertaining that kids will soon be asking for more veg! “Gone Fishing” is Fields Parents’ favorite dipping game at the moment.
Vegetable Flower Nibbles
Directions: cut carrot, red and yellow sweet peppers into flower shapes using mini cookie cutters and arrange them with chive ‘stalks’ and cucumber leaves.
Provide carrot sticks (or celery sticks, cucumber sticks), selections of veggie dips, and a plate of rainbow goldfish (Fish shape biscuits, or alternatively, use fish cookie cutters to cut different colored veggies). Let the kids dip the veggie sticks (fishing pole) into the dips (bait) and then “catch” the fish.
Games and stories are always popular with kids and this applies as much to eating as playtime. One of the most popular games we know is telling kids to pretend they are a hungry dinosaur and the broccoli florets are tiny trees that they must eat before the other dinosaurs discover them! Laure says she plays another game with her daughters where zucchini slices are policemen chasing carrot thieves into their mouths to escape; before they know it their plates are clear!
And if games, stories, design and decoration don’t work, there’s still the disguise option available. Many recipes allow you to sneak healthy helpings of veg into recipes without your kids even knowing they’re in there. As well as the meatball recipe, we also like this Broccoli Bakers recipe where the veg is hidden beneath a generous layer of melted cheese. We know plenty of clever kids who’ve been happily fooled by this simple dish!
If you have other creative tips or recipes that get your kids eating their greens, email us to let us know and we’ll share them on our website with other Mums and Dads. Here’s wishing you a healthy and peaceful family dinner tonight!