Vegetables. All too often, it’s something I chalk up among the list of things I know I should do, but dread. Things like visiting the dentist. Getting a physical. Facing my children without coffee in the morning. You get the idea.
But in the summertime, vegetables suddenly gain new appeal in our house. This year, our family is getting a half-share from a local Community Supported Agriculture (better known as a CSA). Each week during the summer season, we pick up a box of fruits, veggies, and herbs. This week, I opened my box to find radishes galore, asparagus, beet greens, kale, two types of lettuce, and dill. Each week is a new adventure as we try to use it all without wasting anything. Grilled? Why not! Cut up with dips? Sure! Suddenly my children are saying those magic words I wait to hear: More, please.
But if you need a little inspiration – as I often do – here’s a list of a few tips that can help get you on the track toward incorporating more veggies into your summer meals.
Celebrate them. Quite honestly, I get sick of eating carrots and celery all winter long (as some of the only vegetables our toddlers will eat, they are staples in our house). And after all, there are TONS of different vegetables out there, so why hold yourself to just a few? Visit a farmer’s market, a stand by the side of the road, or take an extra stroll down the grocery aisle. If you have kids, let them each pick out a vegetable to try. Take them home and peruse your recipe books or look online for a meal to feature the item in. Allow your helpers (or wannabe helpers, depending on their age) to help you cook or grill the meal featuring their chosen veggie.
Hide them. My children love fruit. That’s great, but frustrating when they continue to turn up their noses at veggies – which is why we sometimes hide our vegetables in among the fruit. In our house, smoothies are a great way to do this. We like to combine Greek yogurt with spinach or kale and a bunch of fruit – bananas, blueberries, strawberries – a bit of milk, honey to taste, and some protein powder (if desired). I’ve seen tons of recipes on Pinterest, but even a simple Google search of “spinach” or “kale” in conjunction with whatever fruit you have on hand can usually lead to some great recipes.
Disguise them. Sometimes, veggies seem a lot more palatable when eaten with something else. If you have little ones, try the old tried-and-true Ants on a Log. One of our favorite veggie disguises: Dips. Lisa Leake over at 100 Days of Real Food has a homemade (and cheap) ranch dip that tastes amazing, although I add a bit of garlic salt to her recipe – I eat it daily in the summer. You can use sour cream or Greek yogurt as the base, then get creative – most store bought dips are just a mixture of spices and herbs you probably already have on hand.
Play with them. As children, we often get scolded for playing with food, but sometimes – if it helps encourage kids to eat veggies – I think it’s a great option. Cut up veggies of different colors and encourage your children to make designs or pictures on a plate with them – with the caveat that they have to eat anything they take. I’ve also seen plates with faces painted on them – eyes, nose, mouth – that you can add hair, mustaches, rosy cheeks, etc. to using veggies.
Just try ‘em! I’ve seen statistics that say that adults need to introduce new foods again, and again, and again before kids will accept them – the most optimistic experts say 5-8 times, while others claim it’s as much as 30-50 times! Don’t get discouraged if your family doesn’t like something the first time.