Summer’s bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables offers a wealth of teachable moments surrounding not only nutrition, but taste too! The easiest and tastiest lesson I teach my daughter? To savor produce as nature intended—at the peak of its flavorful goodness.
However, as every parent knows, enticing selective (or should I say picky?) little eaters to try fruits and vegetables can be a bit challenging. If you’ve just about had it with your attempts to sneak broccoli onto your children’s plates, don’t give up. Now is the time to plant seeds to empower your kids to make smart choices about healthy eating for the rest of their lives. Here are a few tips and tricks to get your children on board the fresh food train.
TIPS & STRATEGIES
• For adults and kids alike, sometimes drinking your veggies is easier than eating them. Toss some dark leafy greens in with your favorite smoothie recipe. The color might be a little greener than usual, but it’ll still taste great and, best of all, it’ll be jam-packed with many essential vitamins and minerals.
• Now that it’s getting warmer outside, eating popsicles is something that kids of all ages like for an afternoon snack. Make a bigger batch of your veggie-smoothie above, and pour into freezer molds to enjoy later. Don’t be surprised when your children—and their friends—beg for seconds of these tasty frozen dessert treats.
• Kids love rainbows, so why not fashion a yummy rainbow on their plate? If you shoot for a spectrum of color, chances are your child will be getting a good balance of food-based nutrients. Red berries, orange cantaloupe, green apples, and purple grapes are so sweet and juicy this time of year. A little ranch dressing adds zing to orange carrot sticks, green celery sticks, and yellow squash curls. If you focus on natural color and variety at each meal, you’ll be on the way to fulfilling daily vitamin requirements without needing supplements.
• Cooking in the kitchen with kids is a great way to create lifelong memories and build skills. Also, there’s something about helping to prepare the food that makes you want to do a taste-test, so don’t hesitate to delegate some of the food-prep tasks to the junior chefs in your home. For example, ask your son or daughter to rinse the kale or broccoli, rip or pull it from the thick stems, tear into smaller pieces, and wash it in a colander. Suddenly, the veggies are a product of your child’s own culinary efforts and might just be worth a try.
• If all else fails, covert (some might say sneaky) tactics might be in order. Mix cooked turnips or cauliflower in with the potatoes before you mash them, or add cooked carrots to sweet potatoes before mashing. These are baby steps, to be sure, but helping kids to love produce is totally worth the effort.
MORE HEALTHY IDEAS
Respect nature’s rules about taste and texture. Storing your produce properly goes a long way toward making sure it tastes great. Apples and tomatoes can all stay on the counter. Potatoes and mature onions (not spring onions or baby Vidalias) actually prefer a cool, dark place so store them in your pantry or your basement. When possible, it’s best to wait until right before using them to give your produce a good scrub. If you wash them and then try to store in the fridge, they’ll spoil more quickly. That also goes for slicing-and-dicing. Try not to get over-zealous in your meal-prep, since these fresh food items last longer when left intact.
Buy local. Purchasing locally grown food means it reaches you right after it is harvested from the vine, tree, or ground when it’s bursting with nutrients, flavor, and juices. Unfortunately, most produce in the grocery store was picked weeks ago and transported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. In fact, nutrients develop in food as it ripens, which means that produce is healthiest when it’s picked at peak ripeness and consumed soon after. It’s not rocket science: Less travel = more nutrients.
Eat seasonally. As you can tell by our name, Seasonal Roots, we are big advocates for eating in accordance with the seasons. Not only is it easier on your budget to eat what’s in season, but it’s healthier and encourages culinary creativity. We are proud to support sustainable farming practices and partner with local farmers who are passionate about providing our communities with good-for-you products.
Have a great summer that’s full of delicious, adventurous eating for the whole family!
Kat Costello is co-owner of Seasonal Roots, an online farmer’s market that makes weekly deliveries of fresh produce, artisan baked goods, and other items to Hampton Roads. As the mother of a nine-year-old (very picky-eater) daughter, Kat has first-hand experience with many of the tips shared in this article. For more information, visit www.seasonalroots.com.