How to Get Your Kids Eating Green Foods ... Happily

Yes, it's possible to serve kids green foods without tears at the dinner table. Learn one mom's tricks and recipe tips.
By: Foodlets

Photo by: Armando Rafael Moutela ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC All Rights Reserved

Armando Rafael Moutela, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC All Rights Reserved

Did you know that experts suggest eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day? If your kids get suspicious the second they see something green hit the plate, try these techniques I use with my own four kids. We eat a lot of vegetables around here, and this is how we do it.

1. Start with low-stakes recipes. There’s nothing worse than slaving over a big dinner only to find that exactly no one likes it. If your crew is new to healthy green food, try quick and simple dishes like these to start.

2. Normalize green veggies. Sometimes I say, “Make everything Florentine.” What I mean is add vegetables to everything —  mac and cheese (pictured above), risotto, scrambled eggs, even muffins — and serve them throughout the day. When veggies show up at breakfast and lunch, it’s not so foreign to see a broccoli spear at the dinner table.

3. Roast it. Broccoli (pictured above), asparagus and kale are all delicious when roasted in a hot oven (about 400 degrees F) with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The outsides get just a bit charred, the insides are soft, and the combined effect is hard to resist.

Photo by: Picasa

Picasa

4. Blend it. Throw fresh baby spinach or cucumbers — or both — into a smoothie. These Tropical Green Smoothies (pictured above) are a favorite when the weather turns cold and we’re looking for a bit of sunshine in a cup.

Photo by: Picasa

Picasa

5. Make it cute. One of my parenting goals is to teach our kids to love fresh food. One way to connect our kids to the good stuff is to make it look enticing — maybe even fancy. I have several very small bowls and cups, all inexpensive stuff from import stores, which I sometimes serve new foods in. Like these egg cups that turn into the perfect vessels for a Shot of Spinach Soup. Another favorite "cutening" tool is our set of veggie cutters that I use for things like this Spinach Salad (pictured above). Combined with the Maple-Balsamic Dressing that our kids ask for (seriously), it’s easy to serve spinach, kale or baby-green salads any night of the week.

FN_Ina Garten Sauteed Spinach.tif

FN_Ina Garten Sauteed Spinach.tif

FN_Ina Garten Sauteed Spinach.tif

©2012, Television Food NEtwork, G.P. All Rights Reserved

2012, Television Food NEtwork, G.P. All Rights Reserved

6. Douse it with lemon and garlic. The very best way to prepare a side dish of anything from frozen spinach to fresh Swiss chard is with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. These flavors work every time. Bring a few lemon wedges to the table and let kids squeeze their own on the spot. Interactive food is always a plus. Or add a big dollop of salted butter on top, as Ina Garten does in her Garlic Sauteed Spinach dish.

7. Serve small portions. When I want our kids to try something new (or try something again), I put only a couple of bites on their plates. That’s trying something. Giving them a whole portion is just asking them to eat something new, which is uncomfortable for many adults as well.

Charity Curley Mathews is a mom to four kids under the age of 7 and the founder of Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe, a site full of simple, real food ideas for toddlers, kids and families, plus all the advice you need for eating together in peace. Usually. She’s a contributor to The Huffington Post, InStyle and eHow. Follow Foodlets on Facebook or Pinterest and you’ll never miss a new recipe or tip.

Next Up

One Recipe, Two Meals: Chicken Lo Mein

Here we have your favorite takeout recipe made right at home — for both you and your kids.

Prep Once, Use Three Ways: Pot Roast

Guarantee easy mealtimes by prepping one big-batch pot roast and putting the meat to work multiple ways.

Dinner in a Hurry: Quick-Fix Recipes for Meals on the Go

Look to Food Network's easy, family-friendly recipes to get meals on the table in a flash, even on the most hectic weeknights.

What to Do with the Season's First Asparagus

Usher in the first days of spring with these bright recipes.

One Recipe, Two Meals: Chicken Burritos

It's winter and you really need these in your life.

9 Simple DIY Popsicles

When the weather turns warm, there's nothing more refreshing than a popsicle — except one made with fresh ingredients and not an iota of fake coloring in sight.

6 Essential Pantry Ingredients and 3 Surprising Ways to Use Them

One mom shares her six pantry must-haves, plus her favorite recipes for putting those goods to work.

Cooking with Kids: Adventures in Guacamole Making, Plus a Simple Recipe

Believe it or not, it's possible — and enjoyable — to host young, budding chefs in the kitchen. Heather from Food Network Kitchen tells her story of making guacamole with third-graders.