If you’re a parent, you will know that getting kids to eat their vegetables can be somewhat anxiety-inducing… My daugther, who is three and a half, is just like your typical pre-schooler, and before that she was a typical toddler and baby. We’ve had some food fights, don’t get me wrong, but I would like to think that she is growing up to have a fairly balanced palate. As a nutritionist, it’s important to me that she has a healthy diet, so I have given this a lot of thought, and some research… Here’s my personal experience from being a mum, and previous to that a nanny, when it comes to getting young people to eat their vegetables.
If the mama’s and daddy’s of the household are super tense about something, then of course the tiny people will sense that and instantly feel the need to rebel. If we approach vegetables with an air of “it doesn’t worry me if you eat your veges or not” then kids will be more likely to eventually experiment or give them a try. Remembering that kids are natural born scientists – they want to experience new things, it’s in their nature – if we just make the veges available to them then at some point the curiosity will take over. Sadly, you can’t fake this…. You need to genuinely work on your own attitude to your kids’ eating habits and know that you can’t control everything, and trust that everything will be ok in the end.
Be a role model
If you don’t eat vegetables, try new foods and keep an open mind to new flavours, then why would you expect your kids to? Again, this can’t be faked. If you’re not excited about certain vegetables, and you’re not keen on passing on your own limitations to your children, then be brave and try some new ways of cooking them. You might still not like them but at least you tried. Have an honest and open chat to your kids about how you never used to like this food but now you’re trying some new recipes. Our kids are watching our every move, even when we think we’re being super sneaky…
Hide them in plain sight
Sometimes I don’t want to fight, but I know she needs vegetables in her body. That’s when I start to get creative with hiding vegetables in the foods I know she will eat. Or blend them in a smoothie. But I will also (almost always) put whole unadulterated vegetables on the side. Just to keep her exposed to them… I’ll also casually display vegetables and fruits where she can see them, like on the kitchen bench, so that if she comes into the kitchen looking for a snack, she might see a glass with a celery stalk in it and feel the need to chomp on that. That’s when I go outside and practice my evil-master-genius-laugh…
Offer, offer, offer
Here’s a radical idea. If you don’t put a food in front of someone, then they can’t possibly try them. I remember the fist time I offered mushrooms to Kenzie. I thought, of well, she won’t eat them but at least she will see them (I based this assumption on what other people had told me “kids don’t like mushrooms”). She ate them all up and begged for more! Still to this day mushrooms are one of faves, and she almost always eats them. Imagine if I hadn’t put them in front of her on that day? Another important aspect of offering up foods is when they don’t seem to like a particular vegetable. My recommendation would be to still offer it. For the first three years of her life Kenzie wouldn’t eat lettuce or carrots. We kept putting them on her plate from time to time, just to normalise them and now she eats them (sometimes)
Get them involved
I don’t know about your kids but once I started getting Kenzie involved in the kitchen, she became more and more excited about learning the names of vegetables and trying them (sometimes only by licking them, but hey…) When she first started asking to help cook dinner I was aware that I needed to allow the extra time and mess that it would mean to have her there… I didn’t want to discourage her even though I knew that it was going to slow the dinner making process down. Now I quite often set aside a simple task for her to do, but I make sure that it’s a meaningful one so that she really feels like shes contributed to the family dinner. Growing vegetables at home is another great way to do this. I feel like some days Kenzie gets 2-3 of her 5-a-day in the garden – cape gooseberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, apple cucumber and even kale…
And here’s the bonus tip: Make it fun! Everyone loves to have a good time, right? So why should eating vegetables be any different? The bonus there is that if you are relaxed and allowing some laughter into the kitchen or dinner table, then kids will sense that there is nothing to be worried about and instantly relax as well.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that Emma likes to experiment with herbs and spices in the kitchen. Just over a year ago she put her researching hat on and worked hard to perfect this Macedonian spice mix which features in our Macedonian lamb moussaka with yoghurt-dill dressing and side salad. Don’t confuse this with a Greek Moussaka, which features aubergines and a different spice combination, like one of our proof-readers did. There were some heated discussion, but they all made friends in the end 🙂
Macedonian lamb moussaka with yoghurt-dill dressing and side salad
For the moussaka:
2 tbsp olive oil
¾ red onion, finely sliced
500g lean lamb mince
2 tbsp Macedonian spice mix (see below)
800g potatoes, sliced
Butter for greasing
For the topping:
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black or white pepper
For the dressing:
2 pots natural yoghurt
2 tbsp dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt
150g mesclun, torn
2 carrots, grated
¼ red onion, finely sliced
Drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Get started with the moussaka. Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion (reserving some for the salad) and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add mince to the pan and cook until is lightly browned – about 3-4 minutes, breaking it up as it cooks. Sprinkle in the spice mix and cook out for a minute or two, then remove the pan from heat and set aside. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if it’s burning or looking dry.
Scrub and slice the potatoes thinly into 2-3 mm rounds while the mince is cooking. Set aside. Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl for the topping and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Handy Hint: Take a moment to read the following paragraph and gauge the quantity of ingredients to choose an oven dish of the appropriate size.
Butter a deep baking dish, then lay out half of the sliced potatoes and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Spread out all the mince, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay out the remaining potatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Press down to firm up the mixture and remove any air pockets, then pour over the milk and egg mixture. Ensure the potatoes are covered in the egg.
Cover the dish with tin foil and pop in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a knife. Remove the tin foil and cook for another 10-12 minutes, finishing off under the grill to brown if needed.
While the moussaka is in the oven, prepare the rest of the meal. Finely chop the dill and combine with the remaining ingredients for the dressing. For the salad, shave or grate the carrot and combine with finely sliced red onion and torn mesclun in a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and vinegar if desired.
To serve, dish up the piping hot moussaka straight from the oven. Serve the salad on the side and dot with the yoghurt dressing.
Love fusing various nationalities together on a plate? Come here then….
This week we feature Hawaiian pizzas on wholemeal base with Swedish pizza salad on the Express and Family Menu (5 meals).
Hawaiian pizzas are a classic, a real favourite for the little kids in the house especially. You might not find it in your most authentic Italian restaurant though. My foodie father informs me that it was invented by a man of Greek origin, who lived in Ontario, Canada! There’s a fun foodie fact for you!
Traditionally it’s made with tinned pineapple, but we like to freshen things up, so we use a real fresh pineapple.
On the side of this hammy, cheesy fruity-liciousness we provide our customers with the ingredients and recipe for a Swedish classic side dish. Where ever you go in Sweden – order a pizza and you get a pizza salad on the side. You would just never eat pizza without it. (Well, perhaps in the most authentic Italian restaurant.) I remember going to Italy as a child and being appalled at the lack of pizza salad on the side of my pizza. It’s basically cabbage and onion in a vinaigrette, with some local variations of course. I would recommend making it earlier in the day or even the night before, because the flavours develop as time goes. For the Swedish pizza salad:
3 cups cabbage, shredded ½ cabbage
1 spring onion, sliced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste For the pizzas:
4 wholemeal pizza bases
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
150 g champagne ham, sliced
100 g cheese, grated
1 crown pineapple, sliced
Pinch of dried oregano (optional) Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
Slice ham into thin strips. Grate the cheese, removing the rind; trim, core and slice the pineapple into rings.
Spread tomato paste onto the pizza bases then place the bases in the oven and pre-bake for 5-6 minutes until a little golden and crisped up.
While the bases are in the oven, fry the pineapple rings. Add oil to a large frying pan or griddle pan and once the oil is shimmering, add the pineapple rings and char for 2 minutes per side.
Meanwhile make the Swedish pizza salad. Slice the spring onion and finely shred the cabbage using a sharp knife, mandolin or cheese slicer. Place in a large salad bowl and mix in vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pre-baked pizza bases from the oven and top with the cheese, ham and charred pineapple rings in that order. Pop the bases back into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned a little.
To serve, place pizzas onto a large board and cut into slices. Sprinkle with dried oregano to taste. Serve at the table with the pizza salad.
I hope you give this a go, and enjoy the culinary trip around the world.