How to Get Picky Kids to Eat (and Grow!) Their Vegetables
As any parent knows, getting your kids to eat vegetables can be a real challenge. In my house, this is a nearly constant struggle with my youngest daughter, who is a seriously picky eater. This pains me because I consider vegetables to be medicine, whereas the rest of it – the grains, meat, even fruit – are simply nourishing food.
One of the best strategies I’ve found to help my kids get excited about vegetables is to involve them in the growing/procuring/cooking process. This is easier said than done, and the problem might not be with our kids but with Big Food and corporate practices that make food dull and lifeless.
Vegetables on the grocery store shelf are often bland lumps of fiber. Supermarket veggies are usually about a week old — picked to last through transportation and getting placed in the produce section — which means they’ve already lost vital nutrients and flavor.
If we are forcing ourselves to eat a serving of boring steamed spinach with dinner, how can we blame our kids for viewing vegetable consumption as a chore?
Making Vegetables Fun and Fresh: Easier Than Expected?
If you have the time and space to garden, there is no better way to connect children to their food and get them excited about the freshest source of veggies. Not only do fresh veggies taste phenomenal, there’s power and novelty in pulling up something you grew yourself and taking a bite! Luckily for those of us with limited outdoor space, one of the easiest, healthiest and tastiest superfoods can be grown right in your kitchen.
Recently, I was chatting with my friend Tom Malterre about kids and nutrition, and he suggested a DIY project with them to make broccoli sprouts. Tom practices functional nutrition in Washington, and even did a TED talk on the healing properties of broccoli sprouts. I’ve sprouted before in my thirties, and spent hundreds of dollars on special seeds and weird contraptions for growing sprouts, but Tom cut through the noise and said, “Just use a 13 x 9 inch pan. Put in a little soil. Sprinkle seeds. Watch ‘em grow with your kids.”
Broccoli Sprouts = DNA Whisperer
Broccoli sprouts are the current all-star of the superfoods. While all sprouts are extremely nutrient dense, broccoli is particularly beneficial because of its powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventative properties. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a molecule that aids in detoxification. A serving of broccoli sprouts contains over 10 times the amount of sulforphane as the same amount of the full-grown plant. In general, you can think of sprouts as a concentrated dose of their mature form. This means you can eat less to achieve the same benefit, another appeal for kids and parents who find themselves subject to the “just three more bites” bargain!
In functional medicine, we consider food to be information for your DNA. In my book, these qualifications net broccoli sprouts as a DNA whisperer, as originally articulated by Tom in his TED talk.
How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts at Home:
You will need:
- A shallow tray (we used a 8×10 glass baking dish)
- Organic broccoli seeds for sprouting, such as these from Sprout House, available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005LR910C
- Organic potting soil
- Plastic wrap or other cover for tray
Step 1: Soak ¼ cup of broccoli seeds in water overnight to begin the sprouting process.
Step 2: Spread a ½ inch layer of soil in the bottom of your tray. Sprinkle your seeds evenly in the soil. Don’t worry about spreading them out as they won’t need much room and you want a dense crop of sprouts. Cover your tray with plastic wrap and store in a dark place for 48 hours.
Step 3: After 48 hours your seeds should have begun to sprout. Use a spray bottle to mist them with water. At this point you can pull them out of the dark and place them in a sunny window, misting twice a day for leafier sprouts, or keep them in the dark and mist once a day for light sprouts with a milder flavor.
Step 4: After 4-7 days your sprouts should be ready to harvest! Use scissors to trim them just above the soil, then rinse in a colander until clean.
Turn Your Kid into a Farmer
Harvesting their very own sprout farm is a crazy fun way for kids to add vitamins and nutrients to their plate. There are countless varieties of sprouts and micro-greens for your kids to experiment with growing. Sprouts are great on pizza, sandwiches and salads, although my daughter likes them best by themselves. She looks forward to tending her little garden everyday and is excited by how quickly the sprouts grow overnight. Fellow parents of picky eaters will understand my joy when she enthusiastically stated that broccoli sprouts were her new favorite vegetable!