September 30, 2009
For some reason broccoli has become a symbol of what American kids should eat but don't. That is, along with other greens like spinach and brussel sprouts.
Commercials show kids trying to feed their pets their greens under the table and moms hiding their kids' broccoli under fatty and unhealthy mounds of fake melted cheese. Books supposedly for children talk about how the characters prefer cake and ice-cream over broccoli and other vegetables - one book even talks about a little girl not wanting to eat anything green. Back in 1990 we even had a President throw a public temper tantrum and refuse to eat any more of his broccoli.
Thank god as a mother I refused to take food cues from American mainstream society. I love my veggies and always have a ton in the house. My husband and I eat them raw, steamed and cooked in Indian dishes. Because we love them so much, my girls have been exposed to vegetables since they were infants. Whenever I would give them a new veggie to try I never got offended that they wrinkled their noses at first. I just reminded myself that it takes about 10 tries for kids to like something that's not naturally sweet (yah yah, I saw that Oprah episode too!). If they hated something I'd pull it out of the meal and then just rotate it in again the week after. The only thing I insisted on is that they try everything. If they didn't like it - it went right off their plates.
I never hid any of my veggies as some cookbooks out there recommend. I've always been open with my girls as to why they should eat certain foods and how they will help their bodies grow strong and healthy. Even if I put a certain veggie in their Indian bread or their lentil stew I'd let them know it was in there and ask how they liked it. I have to admit sometimes they didn't and I got frustrated. But I never let them see me sweat - and never ever gave up.
This week I realized how all this work paid off in spades. It had been about two weeks since I'd made the green stuff (broccoli) and so decided I'd try it for the kids' dinner.
I made it in the normal fashion. I cut off the bottoms after washing it and then split each head in half. I then steamed it for 1 - 2 minutes until it was bright green and crunchy, chopped it quickly and put the huge plate of it on the table for the kids to eat along with pasta. Yes. Plain broccoli. No salt. No cheese. No gimmicks.
The pasta sat idle while the girls devoured their broccoli.
"Mom. I love broccoli. And I love this dip with it. Can we have it for lunch tomorrow?" said Neha.
It was a mommy food bloggers dream...and there's nothing better than proving all those naysayers wrong: the advertising houses, the politicians, authors of childrens' books, even other parents that insist their children could never eat veggies. To the last group I just say, "Don't give up." It doesn't happen overnight.
And, it doesn't happen if you continue to enable your children. I did that for a few years when Neha was about three. I think I was just afraid of her. Fear made me submit to her weakness: cereal and other carby snacks. Even if we were taking a walk around the block I'd pack a bag of Cheerios. Sandeep finally intervened and insisted that I stop giving her snacks that just filled her up too much to eat a proper meal.
I'll never forget the first day I listened. I packed a little bag of grapes and a banana for the park and forced myself to leave cereal and crackers at home. I thought she'd scream bloody murder. Instead, when she realized I didn't have anything else with me she gave in and started to happily munch on the fruit.
Now, I pack grapes, apricots, kiwi, almonds, even small red radishes. They eat everything. I just stopped buying the junk. And miracle of all miracles - they stopped eating it!
Neha's favorite veggie Dip
Neha hates dressing - except when it's homemade. She adores the tofu caesar salad dressing that I learned to make at The Kids' Table. I adjusted their recipe to make the entire pack of tofu. I find that if I don't use it all it goes to waste anyway.
Lately, I've started to use this recipe as a protein-rich dip for all the kids' veggies and even pack it with their school lunches. (If you're kids are sensitive to garlic, you might want to tone that donwn a bit. Mine - especially Aria - eat the dip like it's a soup BECAUSE of the garlic!) This is so much better than a store-bought ranch that has unhealthy sugars and fats in it. And, best yet, try it on your chopped romaine topped off with parmesan cheese and black pepper. You'll swear you're eating a restaurant-style caesar salad. Thanks for the recipe Elena!
1 box silken tofu
4 garlic cloves
1/2 lemon - juiced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Dump tofu, peeled garlic cloves, juice of lemon, olive oil, mustard, and salt in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Put in a container (preferably glass) and store in fridge for up to one week. Use as a dip or on a salad. It's positively amazing!