Thursday, April 01, 2010

More on Food

As an answer to anyone who might have read my last post and thought that I just need to offer Pumpkin more vegetables, here is a list, probably incomplete, of the vegetables she has been offered but refused to eat. Each thing on this list has been offered multiple times. Some things, such as carrots, have probably been offered close to 100 times by now.
  • zucchini (sliced and shredded, steamed, fried, and grilled)
  • broccoli (a.k.a "little trees", raw and cooked with cheese sauce)
  • carrots (raw and cooked, with and without sauces, ad infinitum... she'll nibble them, but spits them out)
  • corn (on the cob and off)
  • asparagus (steamed and grilled)
  • green beans
  • red, yellow, and green peppers (raw and cooked)
  • spinach (raw and cooked)
  • tomatoes (raw and cooked, chopped, as a soup, and in sauces)
  • butternut squash (in soup and cooked in pasta dishes)
  • potatoes (mashed or baked)
  • peas (frozen or cooked)
  • hummus
And here is the sadly complete list of vegetable-like things she will actually eat:
  • sweet potato fries (this took about 10 tries, but now she'll eat them >75% of the time)
  • carrots when shredded and cooked into carrot cake pancakes (but not always)
  • ketchup
  • french fries
  • refried beans, but only at day care
Hubby and I try to eat a vegetable with every dinner. I am building quite a collection of ideas about how to quickly prepare vegetables in a way that I can stand to eat (remember, most green veggies taste bitter to me). One of my current "go to" recipes is to put a bunch of green beans in a microwave-safe dish, plop a little bit of butter on them, pour on some orange juice, and sprinkle on some thyme, salt, and pepper. Then I microwave them for 3-5 minutes (depending on the number of beans), stirring once.

We've had better luck with fruit- Pumpkin likes grapes, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, applesauce (but not whole apples or apple slices!), raspberries, and sometimes tangerines ("tangeringes") and mandarin oranges. We've also tried pears, blueberries, kiwifruit and several different stone fruits, but those have yet to meet with success. We can get away with just about any fruit when it is blended up into a smoothie, though, particularly, if we add strawberries to the smoothie.

It is just like sleep, in my opinion- you can do everything "right" and still not have great success. However, I think it is interesting that the article I found on supertasters says that most kids can taste the bitter compound, even if they will eventually become "non-tasters". So maybe we're all just fated to have to struggle to get our kids to eat their vegetables.

Anyone have any suggestions for more vegetables we should try?


  1. I understand where you are coming from on this one - here is something you might like to try....

    While preparing dinner, my mother always cut up thin carrot sticks, (raw) celery sticks, slivers of red capcicum (I think you call them bell peppers) and slices of fresh oranges. We used to eat them because we were hungry and they were there.

    I use this trick with my kids, but they also often eat a little dish or frozen peas straight out of the freezer, while they hassle me about dinner. Raw seems to be the best way to get some foods into my kids.

    They all like little yellow squashes, which I only get in season, and love baked potatoes with a little margarine cut into them - I often cook the potatoes in the microwave, and finish them in the oven, to get nice skins.

    My kids also delight in eating chick peas, or corn, from tiny, single serve cans. I think the little cans (the novelty) help.

    With three kids I have only about 2 meals that they all like - the others I keep cooking, knowing that someone will complain. It is disheartening, but I refuse to do my head in, cooking multiple meals at every sitting.

    I understand you dilemma. My philosophy has been to keep putting even a tiny serve of each vegetable on each plate at every meal. My eldest (9) now eats most things - you will probably get a few more vegetables into the second list with time.

  2. My almost two-year-old is not a vegetable lover either. After observing her enthusiasm for anything deep-fried, like sweet potato fries, we introduced tempura at a sushi restaurant and it was a hit. Though impractical to make at home, I've come across frozen tempura at Trader Joe's that can be baked in the oven.

    She also likes deep-fried tofu.

    P.S. Been reading and enjoying your site for a while. First comment though.

  3. With my very fussy 2 1/2 year old son, I have had some success with fresh, raw, podded peas - either regular shelling peas or sugar snap. Regular peas can be a little bitter at times, and the pods aren't nice to eat. Sugar snaps you have to poke around to find fat, full peas else they are too small to bother eating. But I just top&tail & de-string, open along the top seam, and leave the peas inside for him to pull out. And that's probably the main reason for their success - the pulling it out himself (with his fingers of course) is FUN. Sometimes with sugarsnaps he'll even eat the pod afterwards. He isn't fussed with cooked peas though (but will eat a few), or snow peas. And with cooked green beans he now only eats the little bean out of the middle, so be warned it has a downside.

    He'll also eat fresh raw corn cut off the cob. Not cooked (on or off), or canned. And grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (and that's progress, used to be ONLY grape) but not regular tomatoes, and not cooked or sauced. That, and potato chips, is about all he'll eat. So we have meals containing at least one of the veges he'll eat a fair bit so he at least will eat one mouthful of vege most meals. Other veges are of course offered, but usually won't make it past his lips - literally, he has a sniffing lip-touch test that food has to pass first before he'll even taste it.

    He's equally fussy about fruit (banana & grape always, apple or pear or strawberry or sultana sometimes, anything else never). And also with protein. Loves salmon if it's fresh, panfried. Not baked. Not frozen. Not canned. Not into patties or mixed into pasta. No other fish any way any how. Same kinda funky rules regarding chicken & meat too.

    It seems to me (for myself and my son anyway) to be not just supertasting but also very much a texture thing. So same taste but in different textures can have different response. Have to get BOTH in harmony to make a food palatable.

    I know some parents thing it is always a power or control thing, but as a fussy eater myself (always have been) I know it's not (although I am sure it sometimes can be), so also always do the offer, encourage, but don't force. Forcing just makes it worse if it is a sensory (taste/texture) thing.

    But I can see how it would totally confuse and frustrate non-fussy-eating parents if their kid will eat a particular food in only one way (eg only raw sticks of carrot, not cooked, not raw shredded or raw sliced) because to them there is no difference but to the fussy eater the difference is so large that they may as well be different foods.

    One day I hope he will be as adventurous with food as your Pumpkin :D

    He's ALSO a terrible sleeper. I wonder if it's connected?

  4. Wow, Cloud, I'm realizing just how lucky I am with my boys when it comes to food. I wonder if she would eat edamame? Or tofu? My boys love raw tofu chunks, cold, nothing added (did I mention I'm lucky?). Avocado? Grape tomatoes?

  5. paola5:43 AM

    As my kids will only eat carrot, spinach and pumpkin as it is ( without being hidden or camoflaged in some way)I think you aren't doing too badly. Also, I am amazed by all the great suggestions other pp have given.

    There are some interesting cake recipes that call for beetroot (as a moistening agent)or carrots or zucchini. Same for bread or savoury muffins. If she eats sultanas or raisens, put some in to sweeten. I think that's how my kids got on to carrot. They tasted it in the cake and then were interested in trying it raw.

    As you know I'm a big fan of soups. If she like carrots, well that's a soup already. Throw in some Zucchini ( tell her its pesto if she queries the green flecks, that worked for us for years!!)and then slowly introduce some other vegetables like pumpkin or potato.

  6. Tate likes black beans and baked beans and green beans from a can. He like corn on the cob but not off. He ate fried eggplant at someone else's house have not been able to recreate that success at home. He'll use raw carrots to eat ranch dressing and sometimes accidently eat a bite. The kid lives on milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, yogurt and rice and beans. I eat a much more varied diet than that and he is always offered some of what I make for myself. I will not make it a power struggle and I will not make him eat when he says he isn't hungry. I also will not let him have a cookie for breakfast no matter how many times he tells me "just one, mommy, that's it." Figuring out what he likes and wants to eat is something he can do on his own when he gets older. I certainly don't eat just what my parents fed me. I expect he will be able to make good decisions for himself about many things in life, not the least of which will be food.

  7. My DS loves Mac and Cheese with pureed cauliflower in it. Also, little pizzas (like on an English muffin) with some pureed spinich mixed into the pizza sauce and safely hidden under the cheese.

    DS is a pretty good eater overall (and will eat almost everything if he is hungry) so I'm pretty lucky on this subject.

  8. Great posts today and yesterday. After reading yesterday's entry and following the links to Marion Nestle's posts, I was so annoyed with people's self-righteous comments at Marion Nestle's! Everyone claims the kids will eat what the parents give them, but it's just not true. I'm not a mom yet, but I am a picky eater, and I still pick through meals as an adult. And if you're a parent trying to give your child balanced nutrition, I imagine that you try to find foods that will give them the nutrients they need. If the only protein you can get them to eat is chicken nuggets, well, then you give them chicken nuggets. And that's much healthier than letting them go through extended periods with no protein. I'm guessing the people making those self-righteous comments definitely have not dealt with picky-eating kids anytime recently.

    As a fellow person with vegetable difficulties (vegetables taste very bitter to me, too), I really liked reading all the suggestions here for vegetable options. I saw that edamame, eggplant, and tempura veggies all made it into the suggestions, which are all veggetables I discovered as an adult and really like. I know avocados are high in fat, but it's "good fat", and they are really tasty with a little garlic salt. Also, I learned to like tomato soup by dipping grilled cheese in it at first, and then eventually learning to actually like it by itself. And I learned to like spinach by having it in sweet salads, like spinach with strawberries and roasted walnuts with poppy seed dressing. I'm also a bit of a salt fiend (which maybe excludes me from being a real super-taster), so I'm learning to like vegetables roasted with olive oil and tossed with sea salt and black pepper. And I've found that I like mushrooms, especially sauteed with butter (of course). It sounds like you have tried a jillion things, and now have a bunch of other possibilities from all these suggestions. Good luck with your little ones! You sound like such an awesome mom!

  9. Anonymous12:00 PM

    Hi Cloud,
    My son is not a great eater, but he has more range than what you are describing. One thing I did to try to expand his interest in fruits and veggies was to: a) grow some in the backyard -- nothing big, just some tomatoes and herbs and green beans in pots. He was interested in watching them grow and would eat things straight off the plants that he would never eat off a plate. But then he got used to them and learned to love raw green beans, for example; b) as other have described, I tend to dole out raw veggies while I'm cooking dinner, usually stuff that I'm using in the dinner. This is how he learned to like carrots, celery, tomatoes (though this is still an off-and-on thing), and broccoli stems.
    I've also found that he prefers raw veggies a lot of the time -- I think he like crunchy things. So he's not a huge broccoli fan, but he much prefers it raw, and more than the florets he loves to eat the raw, peeled stems cut into strips. Those are actually kind of sweet and delicious; c) taking him to the farmer's market -- as with other situations, he would eat stuff there that he saw laid out that he would not eat anywhere else, but letting him pick out some purple broccoli or radishes or whatever and chomp on it as we wended our way through the market introduced him to things he would not otherwise touch. Once they became familiar, I could serve them at home.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for the great ideas! I've got new things to try now, which is great.

    I should have mentioned that we've tried avocado- we have a lovely old avocado tree in our back yard, so this is easy to try. She has yet to eat it, though.

    Welcome, @Becky! I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. It is always nice to hear that someone likes it!

  11. Others have suggested most of the ones that I was going to suggest (edamame, snap peas in the pod, pumpkin). I would also try beets, which have been a HUGE hit with my toddler because they're sweet and they're a cool color. A lot of kids also like artichoke, maybe with a little lemon butter or some sauce that she'd like, because the novelty of pulling off the leaves, dipping them into the sauce, and scraping them with your teeth is tons of fun.

  12. My child eats french fries, asparagus, and apple sauce, refusing all other vegetables and fruits, including juice. You're doing much better than I am.

  13. I've still been thinking about this, especially since my daughter seems to be coming out of a picky phase AND she's been able to communicate her wants better.

    A new thing we've been discovering is not just that she likes things raw, but she likes things cool! For example, I was about to reheat the pork, rice and corn we had the other night, when she asked for it cold. Darned if she didn't eat more of it cold than she did when it was warm!

    So in addition to taste and texture, we should all also consider the temperature.

  14. Mine prefers everything "cold and in a 'tainer" (container) straight out of fridge. I feel like I'm cheating every time I feed her... So I'd second the suggestions to try serving food cold, and possibly in interesting containers.

    I just saw a Parent Hacks post that suggested going to the salad bar at your local grocery store and getting a tiny bit of everything to taste.

    Also, I would argue that zucchini bread and carrot cake count as vegetables.

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  16. I found your blog from Food Politics, and want to offer some suggestions for the supertasters in your family:

    o To eliminate the bitterness from vegetables, peel them. Cucumber, carrot and squash skins can be particularly bitter, especially if they aren’t really fresh.
    o Buying vegetables that are flash frozen is another way to insure freshness.
    o What’s the harm in adding a little sucanat (better than refined sugar) to steamed vegetables to counteract the bitterness if that will help them go down easier?
    o Caramelizing brings out the sugars in onions; lightly sauté vegetables in the same pan and combine.
    o Add applesauce, a little cream and nutmeg to mashed potatoes to make them sweeter and more interesting.
    o Apple butter and maple syrup are great flavorings for potatoes and winter squash.
    o Try sautéing apples and raisins with a little nutmeg, or baking an apple in a little water, butter and sucanat.
    o Cook vegs in a little apple cider or w/dried fruit (raisins, apricots).
    o Dips for vegs: hummus, salsa, Greek yogurt w/dill, honey & cucumber.
    o Kids love tacos! Place vegetables in different bowls and let everyone select what they want in their taco shells.
    o There are lots of ways to get protein without nuggets: plain yogurt (make a potato chip dip w/balsamic vinegar), lentils (soup, curry), quinoa (makes fun curlicues), nut butters, nuts, tofu (in mac & cheese, soups), eggs (hard-cooked, egg salad), tuna fish, cheese, bean sprouts. Vegetarian soy burgers and other frozen soy products beat chicken nuggets.

    Behaviors can help a lot. If you let kids help you prepare dinner, they will be more likely to eat it. Ditto for helping to select it.

    Take them to the market, let them select one new fruit, veg or nut or grain to eat every day. If not at the grocery store, look online. Great photographs! Take them with you to buy it and help you cook it. The more kids know about preparing food, the more investment they will have in the process, including eating what they've made.

    I hope you find this helpful.

  17. meggiemoo11:57 AM

    Neither of my kids (4 and 1) will eat many veggies, other than french fries (naturally). The little one will still eat sweet potato, and the older will often eat baby carrots with ranch dip. As others have mentioned, I can sometimes get some good veggies in him if they're presented in a very offhand manner before dinner, when I know he's hungry.

    I just stick a plate with cut up slightly steamed veggies and dip on the coffee table without saying anything about it, and he tends to eat most of it. But not every time. (Just to keep me guessing.)

    They will both eat almost any fruit, and quite a few proteins (even most fish), so I'm lucky in that way. One thing that has been pretty successful is giving him part of our green smoothies in the morning...

    - large handfuls of baby spinach + water, blend very well
    - add any fruit you want. Dark berries will disguise the green, although my son isn't put off by the color (I also put it into a green cup, which disguises it).

    I often add avocado and banana for smoothness and lemon juice to brighten it up. All you taste is fruit...

  18. Le Petit loves gazpacho. He would eat it every day of the week (and during some of our more lazy weeks, probably has). There's a great supermarket version here in France, with only ingredients that I would use if I made it myself. The only drawback is that it is a bit higher in salt than I'd like. You might try low-salt vegetable juices with the Pumpkin... although if she refuses all tomato products, it's probably a no go.

    Le Petit also likes most soups, although lately he won't try any I make. He won't eat anything orange, either. Or anything that has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Or anything with potatoes in it, for that matter, including fries (not that I'm pushing fries). And, for the record, he's not at all what I would consider a picky eater for a toddler.

    A few other ideas:

    - Lentils (especially the "French" lentils that stay separate after cooking). Particularly good with a quick vinaigrette sauce.

    - Canned beans

    - Vegetable-stuffed pasta (if you can find some with a high enough veggie content in the stuffing)

    - Risotto with veggies mixed in. (Although le Petit will pick through to take stuff out he doesn't like, unless the veggies are deemed innocuous enough)

    - Mushrooms (I know, it sounds improbable, but they were one of le Petit's favorite foods for a while)

    - Vegetarian chili. I've found le Petit prefers it when I add some hot spice and mix in some plain yogurt

    - Cook vegetables with a bouillon cube. It does add a lot of salt, and probably some artificial stuff too, but it also just might work.

    - Add pepper and olive oil.

    If you can figure out what it is that the Pumpkin objects to -- the bitterness, the texture, the color -- it may be easier to work with her. I know, easier said than done, and it may be "all of the above!" As a parent of a good eater and a formerly poor sleeper, I do NOT congratulate myself for "doing it right." I'm just lucky on this one, and I know it. And even I find vegetables to be a huge challenge with my little guy.

  19. My 2 year old daughter is relatively non-fussy for a toddler, but we have a somewhat different food issue. We're trying to make her understand that if she asks for something - food or drink - it is not acceptable to then ignore that item and ask for something else. At breakfast a typical scenario is: "Do you want cereal?" (no) "Do you want oatmeal?" (no) "Do you want yogurt?" (yeah!) And then she eats a few bites of yogurt, sees that mama is eating cereal, and has a fit when I won't let her eat my cereal. Maybe I'm just expecting too much from a 2 year old though!

  20. Reading the comments reminds me that a Sungold cherry tomato plant in the back yard was a huge success with the little one last summer. She quickly learned to pick the bright orange ones off the plant and ate them by the handful. A big mess, but worth it.

  21. Great article, has given me new knowledge about food in cooking and cuisine. I'm new to cooking, so these are the ingredients for me to make a delicious food by myself.


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