Edgy Mama: love thy veggies

“Eat your veggies!”

That’s a refrain that rings out in homes all over the country at least once each day. Well, in most homes with kids.

Forcing kids to eat vegetables is one of the prerogatives of parenthood. And veggies are good for kids — they are among the healthiest ingestible substances — chock full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and more. So we parents are within our rights to be jerks about making offspring eat plants.

Some of today’s parents may give their kids choices about which veggies to eat, or perhaps don’t even make them eat veggies, though I think that may be termed child abuse (can you say, “heli-cop—ter”?). That said, most of us have vegetable horror tales from our own childhoods. And I say, hell yeah to that — more fodder for the therapists.

Here are a few examples of abuse via Brussels sprouts I’ve collected: A good friend of mine here in Asheville says her Dad used to threaten to duct tape her and her brother to the kitchen chairs and use a slingshot to shoot mashed potatoes mixed with veggies into their mouths. And he was a wacky enough parent that these two thought he might actually follow through. So they ate their vegetables.

My middle sister admits that she used to drop squash and peas down her high-waisted flowered underpants when she was a girl (though her husband says she still wears the same panties —they’re just no longer full of spinach). Then she’d go flush the hated veggies down the toilet. Or surrepititously feed them to the dog. Who must’ve been starved because my dog won’t eat squash if it’s fed to him on a silver platter with a side of beef tenderloin.

My sister adds: “I used to hide food in my underpants all the time. I probably hid salmon croquets in my underpants, too.”

But we’re not here to talk about fishy undies. We’re here to talk about vegetables.

According to research, there may be a reason kids hate veggies. Children’s taste receptors are more sensitive than adults, and a portion of the population may be supersensitive to bitter flavors (they’re called supertasters). Veggies can taste bitter, especially the cruciferous ones that all of us hated before we met MSG, like broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage.

But there are ways to get your kids to eat these foods, even the yucky ones. One way is to mix them with foods your kids already like to eat. So chop up some red peppers and onions in really tiny pieces and put them in pizza and spaghetti sauce. Or puree them and add to chicken soup.

Or serve them raw with dips. Kids love to dip stuff — into peanut butter, ranch dressing or piles of Parmesan cheese. In fact, in my opinion, adding cheese or cheese sauce to any vegetable makes it better. And I’m no longer a kid. In most areas of life.

Also, don’t either punish your kids for not eating their veggies or reward them for doing so. We’ve all heard the stories about children being forced to sit at the dinner table for hours into the night until they ingest their overcooked Lima beans (which I still think are nasty). That probably isn’t gonna persuade them to enjoy these health-promoting foodstuffs. I’d say just lay on the cheese sauce and don’t make a big deal out of it.

And rewarding kids for eating certain things teaches them that those are punishments they need to survive in order to get that damn chocolate brownie.

Like most kids, I wasn’t a huge veggie lover. But nowadays, I crave spinach. And tomatoes. And even, occasionally, broccoli. So there’s always hope…





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16 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: love thy veggies

  1. bill smith

    I find the word ‘panties’ offensive to my deeply-rooted Southern Heritage.

  2. bill smith

    My preference for bloomers is irrelevant to the issue. They are comfortable and flattering, and recommended by my doctor. What a real Southern man wears under his dungarees is his business.

    My point is wimmin’s undergarments are not fit for discussion outside tea parlours and other feminine gathering spaces.

  3. entopticon

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a vegetable that I don’t like. The biggest mistake people make is giving kids the option to eat junk. When someone tells me, “my kid won’t eat anything besides white foods like pasta, bread, cookies, and chicken fingers,” all I can think is, why do they have the option to fill up on that crap in the first place?

    Kids are not going to starve themselves. If you give them good food with lots of nutritious vegetables, that is what they are going to eat. If they know that you will give them a big bowl of buttered noodles followed by some cookies if they refuse to eat their vegetables, then it’s likely that they will choose that. If you give them healthy, balanced meals made from unprocessed meats and vegetables, that is what they will eat, and that is what they will crave as they grow up.

    It’s not just a fortunate coincidence that Chinese people like Chinese food, or that Indian people like Indian food, or that German people like German food. We learn to like the foods available to us. If a kid eats nothing but crap as a kid, that is going to shape their food preferences for their whole life. If the only foods available to them on a regular basis are healthy and nutritious meats and vegetables, that is going to shape their eating habits for the rest of their life. And if you help them to have fun exploring new foods, then that is something that they will take with them their whole lives.

  4. We’ve found great success by simply making sure that veggies have been on our son’s plates from the first days they are eating “big boy food” with us, and also from eating the same things they are. This means I occasionally (well, ok, QUITE OFTEN) have to ingest things which I never learned to eat or can’t stand.

    At this point, K-Doodle almost refuses cooked vegetables entirely and T-Doodle will steal cabbage from me.

    So, yea. It’s easy as long as you start early and don’t play into the old stereotype about “eating veggies because they’re good for you”. Convince the child early on that they are actually good to eat and everything else will work.

    At this point, I’ve even learned to like asparagus. And certain grilled things (zucch/squash). You’re never too old either, I guess.

  5. Big Al

    I cannot decide which is funner: arguing over the public discussion of women’s undergarments, or naming your kids “letter-Doodle”.

    Is all this veggie talk Edgy Mama’s “mea maxima culpa” for the previous posts about abusing her children by giving them meat?

  6. No “mea cupla” in “maxima” or “minima,” Big Al. Still feeding kids formerly feathered birds as well. But do wanna give veggies their due. With a little tongue-in-cheek. While wearing bloomers and drinking tea.

  7. Will58

    “I can’t think of a vegetable that I don’t like. ”

    What about Eggplant?

  8. entopticon

    I love eggplant. I have several different types growing in my garden at the moment. It’s all about the preparation. The Italians use tons of eggplant, because it is amazing. Japanese eggplant is out of this world. Greek eggplant is brilliant. Indian eggplant is divine. Lebanese eggplant is awesome. And Thai eggplant is wonderful as well.

    As with most things, aesthetic appreciation is far more encultured (more nurture and less nature) than we reflexively assume. If millions of people like some food, then that is a likeable food. It is just a matter of learning to open up one’s mind enough to appreciate it. When looking at a food that we don’t like, it is best to recognize that it is that we have not yet learned to appreciate it; the shortcoming is in us, not the food. A world of new experience opens up to us when we learn to see food that way.

    No one would ever drink a shot of whiskey, not knowing what it was, and think, “mmmm, delicious.” Virtually anyone would think that it was about as pleasant as drinking gasoline at first. Yet, after learning how to appreciate it, many people do genuinely enjoy the taste. If people can learn to appreciate a good whiskey, they can learn to like anything.

  9. entopticon

    “The Italians” as in, “Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food.” Nope, not a racist, but thanks for asking.

  10. bill smith

    When entop shows me his recipe for a good eggplant whiskey, i’ll believe. Until then its slimy and gross.

  11. entopticon

    Thanks Anne :) I find it to be a great example of just how far we can stretch the elasticity of our tastes.

  12. entopticon

    Your loss Bill. If you ever do feel adventurous enough to try to learn to like it, I recommend starting with Japanese eggplant. It tends to a less challenging taste and texture. Hard not to like if you let yourself. Or try a really well executed ratatouille at a good Italian restaurant. It really can be amazingly good. Is a shame that so many people’s introduction to eggplant is eggplant parm, which is not a great dish.

    Interestingly, to me at least, eggplant were originally white, but it was harder to hide the imperfections, so they cultivated them to be darker. You can still get white ones sometimes though.

  13. bill smith

    [i]Interestingly, to me at least, eggplant were originally white, but it was harder to hide the imperfections, so they cultivated them to be darker. You can still get white ones sometimes though. [/i]

    again with the blatant racism.

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