Healthy eating is a top priority for families with young children, and something that often draws people to our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. With the start of our Academic Season Share AND Back to school right around the corner, we’re sharing some tips we’ve learned along the way about raising young vegetable lovers! This article is Part IV in our series on Promoting Healthy Habits, be sure to check out The First Year, The Toddler Years, and Pre-school Ages. We’re encouraging getting kids involved in the kitchen from the very beginning as a great way to get them interested in eating their vegetables – and other healthy choices. From a very young age children can help with basic jobs in the kitchen, scrubbing, peeling, and even chopping with a child safe knife. As your child becomes more responsible in the kitchen, and their motor skills improve consider upgrading to a sharper knife they can use under careful supervision like these colorful paring knives. Let your children take on more responsibility in the kitchen, by helping at meal times, assisting with meal planning, and of course un-packing your CSA share. When you unpack your CSA box, let them choose a vegetable to pick out a recipe for-consult our Recipe Index or your cookbook collection for inspiration. You can even pick one night per week that children can take the lead on meal-planning for- this is a great way to build healthy habits together and make it fun. Kitchen jobs can also extend to setting the table, and helping make meal time special. Try putting out candles or flowers when you can, and truly be present during meals. I’ve personally noticed my son and other children in our family are much more interested in trying new things when they have a hand in the preparation.
At the dinner table, as hard as it might be, try to stay neutral. The more you push children to try something or eat their vegetables, the more they resist, if you’re not careful you could end up in a power struggle. Current research and guidelines suggest that children need to be exposed to a new food 10-12 times before they try it. Don’t write new foods off if your child won’t eat them at first. Keep offering them in a variety of formats, and try pairing them with foods that are already favorites in small amounts. Another common problem parents report is feeling like a short-order cook at meal times, preparing one meal for parents and one for kids or even more depending on how many people are at the table! For your sanity, stop being a short order cook. Eat meals together and set a good example. Some nutritionists recommend serving meals family style and letting children serve themselves – the more independent they are, the better they’ll feel about making good choices. Encourage your children to eat some of all of the foods available until they feel full. Joining the clean-plate club is NOT recommended by current researchers-learn more here, and can lead to overeating. The best thing we can do for our children is also the simplest, set a good example. Try new foods and eat your greens together! Put away your smart phone and sit down with your children during meal times, healthy habits start now and can have an impact on your child for the rest of their life. Take small steps, and try easy meals like this Beet Salad, that can be customized for everyone’s taste buds. Beets are very sweet and kids enjoy them.
1 head lettuce
2-3 medium size beets
Soft cheese like feta, blue cheese, or goat cheese
Toasted nuts like pecans, walnuts, or slivered almonds
Thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
salt + pepper to taste
Optional: 1 teaspoon minced herbs
Prepare beets. Remove tops and bottoms of beets. Roll in olive oil, then wrap in foil. Bake beets in oven at 350F for about an hour. Let beets cool completely (if possible bake beets the day before of earlier in the day). Slice about a 1/4 inch thick. Kids can do almost all of these steps, except taking beets out of the hot oven.
Wash salad greens. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Mix dressing ingredients. Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until combined. Toss lettuce and dressing together. Top salad with beets, cheese, nuts, and additional veggies.