Getting your kids to eat ... zucchini
Parents can try different methods to encourage kids to eat mild veggie
Missy Chase Lapine says she came up with the Sneaky Chef cookbook series out of desperation. She advocates "hiding" nutritious foods in foods children love to get them to eat healthfully. (Courtesy of Missy Chase Lapine)
This is not an article about why you and your family should eat your vegetables.
This is an article about the pleasure of eating.
No one needs to convince you to eat vegetables. Even children know they should eat their veggies. Everyone knows veggies are nutritious and full of fiber.
But veggies also have flavor. And that often gets lost in dinnertime arguments about eating.
This is the first in a series of articles about eating vegetables. Each month we'll take a vegetable, usually one that's available that month from gardens and farmers markets, and present recipes that include or highlight that vegetable.
This month's vegetable is zucchini. This mild-flavored, green squash is hugely productive at this time of year. It's not a super-nutritious vegetable, but it is very low in sugar and fat and fairly high in fiber, vitamins cup and B6, riboflavin, potassium and manganese.
For a detailed analysis of zucchini's nutrition, an excellent resource is Self magazine's interactive nutrition website at http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2639/2.
Expert advice: Let kids choose
So how do you get you kids to eat vegetables?
Ellyn Satter, a nationally recognized nutritionist for more than 40 years based in Wisconsin, is not a fan of hiding vegetables in children's food.
"You don't get children to eat vegetables. They do it for themselves," she wrote in an email. "I definitely do not endorse hiding vegetables in other food. That is trickery ... (and) children are not stupid."
Satter said the solution to disagreements over eating isn't about the food. It is about the feeding relationship, which involves a division of responsibilities. This is how feeding should work, she said: Parents provide food at a certain time and place, and kids decide whether they will eat and how much they will eat.
"If the vegetables are on the table once a week and the parents enjoy the vegetables, the kids get used to seeing the parents enjoy the vegetables, then they start to sneak up on it," Satter said in a phone interview. "In reality, children do this all the time. They get themselves ready for something, and then they do it."
Another view: Be sneaky
New York-based Missy Chase Lapine is author of the popular Sneaky Chef series of cook books. Many of her recipes incorporate pureed vegetables hidden in kid-friendly foods such as spaghetti sauce and brownies.
"First of all, my Sneaky Chef method gets kids to want to try vegetables outright," Lapine said by phone. "But I'm a real mom — just another mom in the trenches. I came up with these recipes out of desperation."
If your child simply refuses to try a vegetable he or she can see, Lapine said, try hiding it in familiar foods.
"You know we eat with our eyes first," she said. "Telltale chunks of carrot they can see. You've got to be more clever. Take that vegetable and put it in the food processor for 30 seconds. It tastes like any other ingredient in your chili or hamburger or whatever."