Okay, so this post clearly flows well from my most recent one, right…? I mean, I’m talking about BRUSSELS SPROUTS here.
The truth is, I was inspired to write about brussels sprouts thanks to inspiring and powerful mom and entrepreneur, Chef Marcela Valladolid. Mom of two (almost three), culinary legend, Food Network star and cookbook author Marcela is an amazing woman – the real deal. She has managed to balance a bustling career with a personal life that includes raising her two sons Fau and David. Yesterday’s launch of her newest venture, De La Luz by Marcela coincides with her maternity leave as she gears up to welcome baby #3, lovingly nicknamed Petunia.
I first met Marcela when her little David was just a couple of weeks old – adorably squishy and so very sweet – when I had the opportunity to spend some time with her, getting her cozy in a ring sling. Her down-to-earth, warm demeanor instantly drew me in. When you meet Marcela, even in passing, you know that you have met someone who could be a friend for life. Emanating strength, but at the same time an incredible approachability, you instantly want to be just like her. Plus, I freely admit that her show, The Kitchen, is one of my favorites to watch on the elliptical machine (no correlation except that gym time is quite literally the only time I can find to turn on Food Network!).
Anyhow, over the past couple of years that I’ve known Chef Marcela, I’ve loved following her adventures, chatting periodically about babywearing, and watching her absolutely ROCK the work/life balance, and I felt immensely blessed by the opportunity to join the team of De La Luz by Marcela as Copy Editor.
So anyhow, this week’s blog launch includes a delicioso recipe for roasted chicken and brussels sprouts, which I was so very excited to see, since this is one of my boys’ favorite vegetables. Brussels sprouts, which apparently were first coined in 1796 (thanks Merriam-Webster!) are actually a part of the mustard family! The tiny little heads sprouting from the stalk of this plant bear an appearance very close to that of cabbage – leading my dear friend Angie to lovingly call them baby cabbages. And the kids were sold. Baby cabbages? All of a sudden, these cute little guys’ popularity was off-the-charts… and on the plates.
What? It’s all in the name? Yes, my friends. This blog is about parenting secrets and this post is about getting creative about veggies.
You see, when my son Xander first started to eat food, he would eat anything. Squash? Load up the plate! Chicken? Bring it on! But, as he got older, he started to bring home those little phrases that he heard at the lunch table at school.
“Oh, peas are yucky.”
But here’s the thing. You and I both know that peas AREN’T yucky. And, the truth is that 9/10 American children aren’t eating enough vegetables. So, with a stigma against veggies strong in school cafeterias, how do we increase their intake to be closer to the recommended portions (by the way, for my boys, that’s about 1.5 cups EACH of fruit and veggies a day).
Rather than sending you out to do your own research, I’m going to pop in what has worked for me; so without further ado… here are three easy ways I’ve found to help increase your kids’ veggie intake:
1. Provide open access to healthy choices, and get the kids involved!
I know this seems simple, but really, it’s the fastest way to get your kids to eat fruits and veggies. Because buy-in. Quickly-growing kids will eat what is readily available. This means that if you have those little bags of cheese crackers, fruit snacks, or chips sitting on the counter within reach, they are pretty much gonzo.
But grab something a little healthier! Let the kids pick what you buy in the produce section, and let them help you prepare it! Keep raw carrots, sliced celery, apples, bananas, and clementines in a place where your kids can help themselves… and watch the magic unfold!
2. Grow veggies or subscribe to a CSA, if you can!
So this one actually directly relates to the tip above: getting kids involved. Sometimes it may not be practical for you to take your kids grocery shopping. Perhaps, financially, growing your own produce is a better choice for your family. Or perhaps you work 14 hour days and simply can’t make it to the store to curate the weekly supply of fresh fruits and veggies.
If you are able to cultivate a small veggie garden in your yard (or, hey, a fruit orchard if you have space), get your kids involved! Kids who play in the dirt and help to water are emotionally invested in seeing the return on their labor… which means they will eat what you grow! Similarly, if you would prefer and are able to invest in a CSA (community supported agriculture), you will reap so many amazing benefits – by paying a fee to help meet the farm cover its operating expenses for the season, shareholders in return receive a box of produce each week (or biweekly) during that season: delicious, fresh, and oftentimes organic, and supporting your local farms. My kids love nothing more than to open up the box when it arrives and to help plan how we will use the contents.
3. If all else fails, get creative.
Here’s where brussels sprouts come in. I mentioned that my son had a “word aversion” to the name brussels sprouts (thanks, friends in kindergarten), but that’s he’s enamored with baby cabbages, right? Don’t be afraid to get creative! In my house, we eat veggie snack (pea snack and corn snack), green crunchy sticks, slurping beans, and baby trees quite frequently. And what are those?
Veggie/pea/corn snack are frozen vegetables… yes, still frozen, and straight out of the bag. Green crunchy sticks are raw green bell pepper slices – sometimes we have a special surprise and they come in yellow or red! Slurping beans are good ol’ haricots verts. And baby trees: as is probably obvious, baby trees are steamed broccoli. But on this one, size matters! My 3-year-old will only eat the “really tiny” ones, but will eat LOTS of them!
You’ll find what works for your family – and it may be different from mine! – but hopefully my experiences will help you in some small way explore your options to encourage your little people to eat those veggies. Sound off in the comments to let me know your thoughts on how it’s working!
And, if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet today, I highly recommend hopping over to chefmarcela.com when you’re done here to check out the delicious yet simple brussels sprouts recipe she developed – you won’t want to miss it!