Is there one particular food that you just can’t stand the taste of? Something that makes you gag at the mere mention or one that you’ve had a deep hatred of since childhood?
For me that food is Weetabix. The texture; bleurgh who wants to eat cold papier mâché paste, the look; just about the beigest, most boring looking food known to mankind, and the taste; two words…baby food! But not liking Weetabix is hardly the end of the world when that is pretty much the only thing I won’t eat.
But what if there’s more than one food you don’t like, in fact what if there are more foods you don’t like than the ones you actually do. And what if the foods you don’t like are the ones that are actually the best ones for you?
Yep I’m talking fruit and vegetables.
Now, it’s not too much of a problem if it’s one or two particular fruits or vegetables that you don’t like, however if you are one of those fussy eaters who won’t eat anything green then you’re seriously missing out on some essential vitamins and minerals.
And wee all know kids are the biggest culprits when it comes to turning their noses up at food, right?
From an early age children need to be exposed to as many different foods as possible, in order for their taste buds to get used to a whole variety of tastes and textures, and in an ideal world we shouldn’t need to sneak the healthy stuff into their meals, they should just like them. But we all know that it’s not always as easy as that and if you find mealtimes turning into a constant battle I’ve got some top tips for sneaking the good stuff into everyday food that the whole family can enjoy.
Smoothies and Juices
This is a bit of a controversial one, as lots of nutritionists have very mixed views on this and I recently covered some of the key points in my article Juicing: Fact or Fad?. However, my personal view is that if someone is not eating enough whole fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, then it is far better to be consuming them in liquid form, either as a juice or as part of a smoothie, than it is to be taking a multitude of different vitamin pills.
Juices are great to have alongside your breakfast and homemade juice is far, far better for you than any shop bought juice. My personal fave is orange, carrot and ginger as it really gives me a zing first thing in the morning when I need it the most, but you can play around with different fruits and vegetables until you find one that you love. Why not get the kids involved by holding a juice competition, with points for taste, presentation and best name? Or you could get them to design and make their own menu with lots of pictures of the different juices they’ve invented and then every day you can all try out one of their concoctions and leave a star rating on the menu. By making something fun and getting the kids involved, they are more likely to be open to trying new things, especially if it is something they have made themselves.
And smoothies can be approached in much the same way, however it is worth remembering that smoothies are a lot more filling than juices and are much better as a snack than as a drink alongside a meal. Invest in a good quality blender, honestly you do get what you pay for, and you can more or less bung anything in it. Kale, spinach, apples, berries, carrots, frozen fruit, ice cubes, you name it, throw it into a smoothie blender like a Nutribullet, and it will literally blitz it all up and disguise all that dreaded green stuff.
But if you don’t want any more kitchen gadgetry clogging up your worktop, a trusty stick blender does a decent enough job, just be prepared for a few questions like:
“Muuuuum! What’s that green stuff floating in it?”
“Muuuuuum! What are those bits?”
If that does happen, I’ve learnt from experience that a teaspoon of cacao power, a squirt of honey and calling it a ‘milkshake’ works everytime!
Make it Sweet
Now, I’m not saying cook your veg and then add a load of sugar to it, because we all know that ain’t healthy, but vegetables and most fruits have a naturally sweet taste that you can use to your advantage. For example, my son can’t stand bananas, to the extent that he can barely bring himself to be in the same room as one (ridiculous!), but when I mash it up and put it into a cake or a flapjack, suddenly it’s the best thing ever. There is absolutely no shame in sneaking fruit and veg into what they consider sugary treats. I sneak in sweet potato, bananas, prunes, butternut squash, carrot even beetroot and they don’t have a clue – 10 points to mum!
This uses the same principle as a smoothie; blend, blend, blend and you can disguise most things and then use it as a sauce for pasta, pizza or even as the base for soup.
I like to chop onion, garlic, tomatoes, pappers, carrot, celery and mushrooms then pop it all in my slow cooker with some passata, some herbs and my secret ingredient (a teaspoon of Marmite). I let it cook all day on a slow heat, then I blend it all down to create a smooth sauce that tastes divine. As long as there are no visible green or brown bits you are onto a winner! It makes absolutely loads so you can portion it off and freeze it, to then get out and use whenever you need to, and you can also play around with the ingredients to tweak the flavour every now and again.
Spiralized food has become the trendy way to eat vegetables and it’s great, because it opens up a whole heap of different options to add a twist to most of those family favourite dinners. If you haven’t yet got a spiralizer, then I urge you to get one, as they are really easy to use; like a Play Doh machine for veg and the kids will LOVE turning the handle to see what comes out at the end, it enables you to eat more raw vegetables; strangely it makes them taste better, and compared to a lot of other kitchen gadgets (yes juicers I’m looking at you!) they are really easy to clean. I have a great spiralizer from bodyharmonik, which ticks all the boxes for me (you can read my full review here) and has helped me get my kids eating raw courgette, something I thought would never happen!
And what would a trendy food be if it didn’t have it’s own name? Spiralized courgette = ‘Courgetti’ (or if you’re American ‘Zoodles’) and spiralized carrots = ‘Carrotti’. Ok, so that’s all I could think of…’Parsnipotti’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? (If you know any more please let me know!) Basically as long as the fruit or veg is hard enough, you can spiralize it, so we’re talking – courgette, carrot, butternut squash, parsnip, potato, sweet potato, turnip, beetroot, apple, pear etc.
The best thing about spiralized veg is that it looks exactly like a nest, or curly hair, so here’s where you can start having fun with your food, and the kids will LOVE it!
Try these ideas:
- Courgetti nest with meatballs as pretend birds eggs.
- Spiralized butternut squash (‘Butsquotti’?!?) as the hair on a homemade ‘face’ pizza – black olives for eyes, red pepper for lips etc.
- Carrotti as the mane of a bolognaise lion or the rays of a risotto sunshine.
My top tip is to keep it raw, as it cooks incredibly quickly and can become sloppy, particularly courgette, and kids hate sloppy food.
I’ve touched on this a while back, but the best way to get kids to eat healthily and to try new foods is to include them in the preparation and making of meals. Get them mashing, peeling, spiralizing, blending, cutting (with supervision obviously!) and encourage them to pick at the food as they prepare it. You must also remember to be patient with them and never force them to eat anything they don’t want to, as this will only cause greater anxiety with food and may make them more stubborn. Someone once told me that it takes trying something 7 times before you can actually decide whether you like something or not, so set up a chart somewhere and keep track of how they’re getting on. And remember…stickers are your best friend in instances like this, a child will do pretty much anything for a sticker and there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, wrong with a little bribery every now and again.
I hope you’ve found this post useful, or that it’s at least helped give you some ideas to try with your own fussy little eaters. That is presuming your fussy eaters are little…? If it’s an adult that won’t eat their greens, then quite frankly they need to man up, stop behaving like a toddler and just eat the damn thing!
And no…you can’t have a sticker!
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