I look in to those bright beautiful blue eyes and I want nothing more than for this perfect child to grow up healthy, strong and with more opportunities than I could have ever dreamed of. I want him to have a life of carefree nights filled with laughter and all the joys this life has to offer. I don’t want him to grow up just like me… I want him to be better than me. I want for him what every parent wants for their child.
I come from a long line of unhealthy eaters. This isn’t news, just look at a family picture! I grew up with no direction on healthy eating, setting limits or learning how to eat a balanced diet. Don’t misunderstand my words, I’m not blaming anyone. I learned it from them, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents….and so on. To be honest; I was following in my family’s footsteps (very well I might add) up until a few years ago. My dad died when he was 42 (I was 9), from heart disease and Lupus. I was heading in his direction and had been for the last 20+ years of my life. I was majorly unhealthy, very overweight with a family history of heart disease and diabetes, I didn’t exercise, I ate nothing but garbage. Then, something happened; I found out I was pregnant, and everything changed. (Ok, so this is going to sound like the trailer of a dramatic movie, but it’s totally the truth!) Desperate to give this child a better life and break the cycle of unhealthy eating, I made some serious changes in my eating habits and I mean serious! It wasn’t about me anymore. Now, I have a responsibility to someone else that I owe. It’s not fair of me to bring a child into this world and then leave them here to live a life without me. Especially if it’s something I can change. My diet is something I am capable of changing. During this time, I found Bountiful Baskets and it opened my eyes to so many things.
Before my son started eating baby food, I sat down with my pediatrician; I was determined to break this cycle. I know that sounds funny, we were talking about a 3 or 4 month old baby here. But unhealthy eating is that serious. Obesity is that serious; and it’s never too early to start. Together, we came up a plan.
Some of the techniques aren’t for everyone and I am not a doctor. I am just a parent who struggled with food and was determined to start off with a clean slate while I had the chance. A lot of my Basket Family thinks we’re kind of strange; I get a little too excited over vegetables! We are vegetable lovers no doubt! In just over 2 years, I have gone from only eating corn to eating a wide variety of them. I eat them multiple times a day. So here are some tips that I hope will help you and your family!
A Few Tips for Parents with Babies
- Stick to Vegetables in the Beginning: The biggest and most important thing we did when my son started eating baby food was not to give him fruit. We stuck to vegetable only baby food for about 1-2 months and we made sure everyone involved with our son’s eating was on the same page. Family members and our daycare provider knew that we were trying to stick to vegetables. (I didn’t have a meltdown if someone slipped him a banana, but I did my best to give him a good solid base for vegetables while he was learning to eat). Once he was used to eating food on a regular basis, I started introducing fruits.
- Stay Away From Juice: Don’t be fooled by the word juice. Juice is high in sugar and you need to be able to understand the contents to find a juice not made from concentrate. In my experience; once children get a taste for juice, water is thrown by the wayside. This is something I spent a lot of time explaining to people who didn’t understand my stance on this. I have even offended people when I kindly turned down their offers of juice for my son. But again, this is something I firmly believe in. He has had juice, he likes juice. But it’s not something I would like him to have on a regular basis. This was also something I talked about with my pediatrician (I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stunting his growth or anything). But because of this, he is an avid water drinker and drinks massive amounts of water a day!
- Stay Away From “I’ll Get to it Later:” I have a friend who is struggling with some of these same issues, and she reminded me of this tonight. I keep telling myself and my kids. “I’ll get to it tomorrow, “I’ll show them later.” “I’ll make them vegetables another time”….The reality is, tomorrow’s never promised and “later” never comes.
A Few Tips for Your Children
- Always Praise Your Children but Don’t Reward Them for Eating Their Vegetables: I really want my son to grow up eating healthy. But when it came to the point of him learning he had a choice in the matter and saying “No”. I was stuck. One day, I found myself saying “Eat your vegetables and you can have a treat.” And afterwards I realized what I did. He may be only 2, but he knows that if I am going to give him something rewarding, vegetables must be a punishment. Studies suggest that when we are rewarded for eating something, then the reward becomes the treat and we will not see the food itself as enjoyable. We will indirectly teach that vegetables are punishment we have to “get through” to get a reward.
- Children Have a Fear of the Unknown: This isn’t news! So why would it be any different with vegetables. Teach your kids about EVERY KIND OF VEGETABLE, NOT JUST THE COMMON ONES! If you don’t know them, look them up, learn them together. Here is a list you can start with. It’s an A-Z List of Vegetables. Take your children down the produce aisle with you and point out an eggplant. Let them hold it even. Show them an artichoke heart (with a big bad scary name and how cool it actually is), then take it home and cook it! Make sure they are familiar with all different kinds, the more they know; the less scary it will be for them to eat.
- Make 2 Different Kinds of Vegetables Every Night: This is common practice in my home. We started cutting out our starch intake, so generally our supper meal is a salad, meat and 2 vegetables.
- Make Food Fun: We have a toddler who loves trains and broccoli. When he is being especially stubborn, we will set his food up like a train and he will count the cars and he eats them and goes, or we will tell him a vegetable he has decided not to eat is broccoli’s cousin (I know, I’m a horrible mom; I’m lying to my child. But am I? Aren’t all vegetables related in some way?) Try use patterns. Arrange your child’s plate into a cool smiley face with their food or something else to get their attention and make interesting to them. Get creative! What do kids want? They want to be entertained; they want something to keep their attention. Check out our blog at for
Halloween Food Fun, Eat the Rainbow, Celery Root Chips, or After School Snacks plus many more ideas for fun and creative ways to use your vegetables. Also, Pinterest! That is an endless supply of creativity juices flowing!
- Get Kids Involved: This one was something I completely overlooked. We did great getting our son to eat vegetables from the moment he was eating food. But at 6 months he stopped eating eggs. All the way up until 2 years old. No matter what I did (and I tried all of my own tips). No avail! One morning, my mom was over while I was doing Baskets. To my surprise, when I got home, she told me how together they made eggs and he ate 2 plates full…..All he needed was to be a part of it. I tried it the next day and sure enough; same result!
- Try Not to Make a Big Deal about Vegetables: This goes back to the praising. Praise your child for eating everything, not just vegetables. If you single vegetables out, eventually they will know this is something they can have power over. And sometimes not eating them is power. Praise your child for eating every type of food.
- Be an Example: Your children do what you do! They want to be like you. It will only last for so long if you aren’t eating the vegetables too. Don’t just tell them to eat their vegetables. Show them; and not just the times they are looking. Live a healthy lifestyle.
Tips for Everyone to Eat More Vegetables
- Get a Bountiful Basket Every Week: (or every other week, depending on your location) and use everything in your basket.
- Add them to the Food You Already Love: Adding vegetables to foods you’re already eating is one way to get your daily intake of vegetables. Do you like pizza or spaghetti? Try adding fresh vegetables. Make a homemade pizza with chopped up fresh vegetables. Or adding fresh vegetables in your pasta sauce (even if you bought a jar that comes with them in it) mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, peas, beans and squash are all things that are great when added to pasta sauces. Mac-N-Cheese is a kid favorite, add some broccoli.
- Make Soup: Soup is an easy way to add lots of vegetables in one meal. Chicken noodle soup is a kid favorite, throw vegetables in with it. Vegetable beef soup with some fun shaped pasta noodles is another way to get a large amount of vegetables in.
- Use Dip like Ranch and Peanut Butter or Adding Cheese: Yes it does make it less healthy; but at the end of the day they are eating it. Isn’t that the point? Eventually, they will realize they don’t need all the extras and they will cut out the ranch and keep the vegetables.
- Juicing and Smoothies: One way to use up those veggies is to juice them. Go online and there are hundreds of vegetable juicing recipes! Some people live by this and have been able to make this an art. The taste is actually good!
- Learn the Facts: Did you know that the Cruciferous family of vegetables is among some of the strongest tasting and smelling vegetables? Some of the big names on that list include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, chard and kale. People with sensitivity to taste and smell will be less likely to eat foods with these vegetables in them. Know how to cook them for those people. To cut out the bitterness; add a small amount of olive oil when stir-frying. Or if making fresh in a salad, add something salty like soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon or shredded parmesan. You can also try something sweet like honey.
- Texture Turn Offs: Research Selective Eating Disorder (Very Picky Eating)….It was me! Down to a T. This was the reason I wouldn’t eat anything new.
- Put Veggies Eye Level in Your Fridge: Don’t shove the vegetables away in your crisper or behind the take out where you forget about it. Put it front and center so every time you open your fridge it glares at you saying “EAT ME…EAT ME!” The constant reminder will push you to use it and remind you that it’s there before you find that limp old lettuce all shriveled up in the back that is now destined for the compost pile.
- Prepare Veggies Ahead of Time: Set aside a few hours on the weekend to cut, clean and prepare your vegetables for the weekly meals. This will make your weekly meal times quicker and more efficient and it should ensure that you follow through with actually using them. If you have already put some work into them, you are less likely to drop the idea. Plus, you have fresh snacks readily available!
- Double What You Love: If you have a few favorite veggies that you love in your nightly recipe. Double the veggie amount in the recipe. The more the merrier!
- Don’t Limit Eating Vegetables to Supper: Vegetables are vast and diverse. They can be used in so many recipes. The trick is to do a little research. Use them in breakfast, snacks and lunches. One of my favorites is mixing a bunch of random veggies in with potatoes, eggs or in a wrap for breakfast. Or put them in pancakes!
- No Meat Monday: Pick a day on a regular basis to commit to having a non-meat meal.
- Add Vegetables Where You Least Expect Them: Breads, cakes and muffins are a good disguise for the picky eaters in your family and it’s a good way to use up that endless zucchini.
- 2 Words…”Grill Baby!” Grilling can give your vegetables such great flavor.
- They Go Together Like Ying and Yang: Did you know there are certain foods that go together so well; they almost have the law of attraction pulling them toward each other? I didn’t until a few years ago. Avocado is one of them. It has a yang, 2 of them actually. Turkey and/or bacon. Put those things anywhere near each other and you have to fight to keep the pull from joining the ingredients together. This was helpful to me knowing I could take an ordinary sandwich and make it just that much healthier and about 10 times as tasty too! Zucchini can go in any vegetable mix and go unnoticed and eaten because it just blends in well.
- Find Ways to Tweak Your Daily Routine: If you eat a sandwich every day for lunch. Try using healthy alternatives whenever possible, like instead of mayo or bread. Try substituting a vegetable spread or a lettuce wrap as healthier alternatives. Mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. Green leafy lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce. Fresh vegetables instead of frozen. A few tweaks in your daily routine can go a long way.
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Using Flavors: When I first started eating vegetables; I was only able to cook with them by sautéing them in butter, garlic and/or bacon (usually all of them together since I’m being honest here!) Someone was quick to point out that I was basically defeating the purpose. NOT TRUE! Here I am a few years later and I am a die-hard vegetable steamer! Now, I don’t add anything to them. (Though bacon is still one of my favorite words…honesty remember).
- Learn How to Properly Cook Each Vegetable: Believe it or not, not every vegetable is meant to be cooked the same way and if you don’t know how to cook them properly, you are more likely not getting the full value they have to offer. Furthermore, you may actually be ruining their texture by improperly cooking them. 5 minutes to long on a recipe for asparagus has limp and soggy asparagus ruining your idea of what this delicious vegetable really tastes like. And one bad experience has you believing for the rest of your life that asparagus is disgusting.
The 2 Most Important Things I Can Say
- The Last (and Most Important One in My Opinion)…Think about vegetables, daydream about vegetables… LOVE VEGETABLES: Eating and enjoying vegetables truly is a state of mind. If you believe they taste bad, they will! Change your mind-set. Think about them. Have an affair with them (Ok, that sounds weird). Seriously though; crave them, find a way to love them! The more you think about enjoying them, the more you will. Retrain your brain, this takes practice. Tell yourself it’s ok to enjoy healthy food. I love the taste of vegetables! It was really the “idea” of them I didn’t like.
- No Matter What….Keep Trying: For yourself and for your children. Don’t give up. It took me 28 years to start eating vegetables. Now, they are a part of every meal. Even if you think you don’t like something, try it again in a month. Cook it a different way. Never close the door on it. If you do; you are closing the door on your health because one thing turns into two, and two into ten. Until there is nothing left. Always remember you are a good parent. All children go through a variety of phases when it comes to food likes/dislikes. As long as you keep cooking with vegetables and continue offering veggies as healthy food alternatives. You have successfully introduced your kids with a vast, nutritious and health conscious base for good eating habits they can carry for the rest of their lives. You are doing your job! Stop beating yourself up, we are all doing the best we can with what we have and at the end of the day that’s really all that matters.