he world of nutrition at the moment—like most moments—is rife with dueling views. Eat whole grains! No gluten! Don’t eat meat! Don’t eat processed meat substitutes! Few argue, though, about whether fruits and vegetables are good. Now here are some tips—even some tricks—for getting kids to actually crave them.
Do What the Pros Do
The Mamnoon chef sneaks vegetables into meat dishes for her son—maybe it’s spinach in the meatloaf or mirepoix in the ragu. Beyond that, she introduced produce early, makes him try everything, and even deploys a bit of subversive psychology: “I’ll trick him into thinking it’s his favorite thing. You know broccoli, your favorite vegetable of all time? He’ll be like, Yeah!”
For her daughter, Hibiki, the chef at Kamonegi cooks naturally sweet vegetables like daikon and carrots in dashi: The layered umami gives them a rich bump. “I don’t want to cook anything complex,” she says. A trip to the farmers market can also stoke interest. “Kids are so visual. If they see, like, beautiful tiny carrots, or radishes, they’ll want to eat them.”
Play to Taste
Kids’ taste buds love sweetness, hate bitterness. Accept this, and as a means of introduction, pick vegetables that flatter it—carrots, cooked radishes, beets. Still need a little sugar? Glaze those roasted carrots in honey.
It’s the same logic that makes you keep the lopsided pottery vase you fashioned as an undergrad: If you made something, you like it better. Visit a farm (like Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center in Carnation), tend a raised bed at home, or grow herbs on the window sill.
Take Cooking Classes
Often relegated to the side dish, vegetables don’t always get the care you might lavish on a rib eye. That’s a shame, because the easiest way to make broccoli less enticing is to cook it poorly. Solid Ground, the local nonprofit that takes an intersectional approach to ending poverty, teaches cooking to kids at in- and after-school programs and also runs Cooking Matters, a six-week series focused on teaching adults in need to cook inexpensively and nutritiously. Want to prep meals together? PCC offers classes for parents and kids, like one that teaches two- and three-year-olds to count as they make snacks like “four-wheel veggie cars.”
Just Have It Around
“How do we get low-income families of color across the city, and low-income families generally, local great produce?” asks Christopher Teeny of Pacific Coast Harvest, a grocery delivery company. Last year, the City of Seattle brought it and Pike Place Market in to help Tilth Alliance, which has been running a produce program for a few years. In 2017, the service delivered to about 700 low-income families at preschools. In 2018, with the extra help, the program got nearly 25,000 bags of produce (each stuffed with a recipe for cooking what’s inside) to around 1,500 families.
Pacific Coast Harvest—on the business side—is sort of a combination of a CSA and a delivery service. Produce comes predominantly from small, local farms, but it arrives year-round and customers can personalize and embellish with non-local staples, like lemons. Either way, Teeny and the company work with the same idea: If you want your kid to eat an apple, have it on hand, and have it taste good.