This past weekend I attended the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. Amidst all the events, chatting with fans, and eating (and eating, and eating!), I was fortunate to have a cooking demo and book signing at the Fun and Fit in the City event on Saturday. Lots of families came out to enjoy the fun-filled day celebrating healthy food and exercise.
Whether it’s at events like this, during interviews or just with moms I meet every day, I am often asked for my tips on how to get kids to eat vegetables and enjoy healthy food. Well, I have lots of strategies and ideas that I use with my own four daughters. They include: bringing the kids to the store (or the farmer’s market) to pick out something in the produce aisle and building a recipe around that ingredient, offering up two vegetables at dinner so they get to make a choice (do they want string beans, kale or both?), and having the kids “present” dinner each night to talk about what is being served and a little about what the family gets from each ingredient (protein from chicken, vitamin C from oranges, etc.).
But here is my big tip of the week: I like my kids to get their hands on healthy food, and get them involved in the process. Yes, there is of course a greater chance they will not only eat the resulting dish, but even if not…I feel like I am helping them to build positive associations and relationships with healthy food for the long term. I talk about the ingredients, what colors and shapes are involved, what vitamins and nutrients they offer (very broadly – e.g. “chicken has protein that builds muscles” or “carrots have vitamin A which helps my eyes.”) My four daughters have different, and ever-changing, tastes. One of my daughters loves to make the family salad all the time but doesn’t care to eat it. Still, I count it a victory that she spends twenty minutes feeling good about salad.
Last night, we made a version of the raw Brussels sprouts salad on the cover of Whole Living Magazine. Here are some photos featuring my oldest daughter Valentine helping me. (And to answer your question: yes, she tried some. And no, I didn’t convert her into a Brussels Sprout Lover. Yet.)