Kids and vegetables have a long, complicated history. Simply saying the dreaded “v” word can send a picky eater scurrying out of the kitchen with their lips clamped shut. But as a mom, you know getting vegetables into those little mouths is essential. You might have to get creative if you want your kids to get all the vitamins and minerals they need, so here are some of my best ideas.
1. Reap What You Sow
One great way to get your kids to eat more vegetables is to let them become plant parents. The feeling of responsibility and the awe of watching the living plants sprout and grow can inspire them to at least tolerate their existence and maybe even taste them.
Surprisingly, the easiest, fool-proof and most satisfying vegetable to grow is the radish. Radishes may not be as popular as macaroni and cheese, but kids sure love to see the red bulbs pop up after only 30 days from planting in the spring. Lettuces like mesclun mix, can also be harvested in less than a month.
2. Spiralize Those Veggies
A zoodler costs around $10, and it’s the best money I have spent all year. You can spiralize carrots and cucumbers for quick fun salads, or spiralize zucchini or other squash for a quick hot spaghetti type of meal. There’s just something about spirals that make vegetables more appetizing for kids.
Most spiral vegetables cook in seconds, and all you need to do is add sauce and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Ta Da!! Dinner in less than 10 minutes, and vegetables your kids will have fun eating.
3. DIY Dressings
Salads are a lot more exciting when you let the kids make their own dressings. From a squeeze of lemon to an eight-ingredient extravaganza, the combinations for homemade salad dressings are endless.
As a bonus, you can also use the dressings as a marinade with chicken, fish, pork, or beef. To get started, I just set out an assortment of ingredients and let the kids mix and match.
The basic recipe is one base ingredient (4 ounces), one acid (1 ounce), one flavor (use sparingly), one herb (1 tablespoon), and a pinch of salt. The thin, vinegar-based dressings are shaken in a bottle with a tight fitting lid, and the thick, creamy dressings (or dips) are stirred in a bowl with a whisk. So the first questions we ask when we get to the kitchen to make dressing is, “Shaken or stirred?” Once you decide on that, you can let the kids get creative and figure out for themselves which combinations make the tastiest dressings.
Here is a list of ingredients that we have used this past year.
- olive oil
- sour cream
- lemon juice
- lime juice
- apple cider vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
- Honey, sugar, maple syrup ,apricot jam, raspberry jam,
- orange marmalade, pineapple juice
Strong Flavor (use sparingly)
- fresh garlic
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- crushed red pepper
- cayenne pepper
Variety flavor (let your imagination go wild)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Bleu cheese
- feta cheese
- pickle juice
- chopped pickles
- tomato paste
- mustard powder
- pickle relish
Fresh and dried herbs
Sometimes the simplest dressing is the best choice. The most popular potato salad recipe just calls for mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. Traditional coleslaw is just mayo, white vinegar, sugar, and salt, and basic Italian dressing is olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and salt.
No matter what kind of dressing your kids create, they’ll love pouring it over a fresh springtime salad. It’ll give them a sense of pride and accomplishment, and you can even name their favorite creations and write them down in your recipe book for future use.