Parents, aunts and uncles, big siblings, grandparents, babysitters, and caregivers of all kinds know that getting some kids to eat healthy foods can be a struggle.
There are plenty of approaches to addressing what can be a daily problem for those in charge of getting food into tiny bellies, but the dinner table doesn’t have to be a battlefield, and getting good habits on board early can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.
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Leah Garrad-Cole is the founder of Love Child Organics, a Whistler, BC-born organic baby and children’s food company. With her products available in thousands of stores across Canada, and a mom herself, Garrad-Cole is familiar with some winning strategies to get to fresh foods–especially veggies–into growing bodies.
When it comes to getting kids to eat more veggies, Garrad-Cole counts herself in the camp of keeping it real.
“I know hiding vegetables in favourite foods has been a popular practice over the last several years, but I really believe it’s far better to let your kids know there are vegetables in those foods they love so much,” Garrad-Cole tells Daily Hive via e-mail.
“For example, spinach in a smoothie, or in their favourite banana bread. If they’re aware there’s spinach in something they like, it’s more likely they’ll try it on its own,” she adds.
Garrad-Cole is taking her insights, and recipes, to the masses via her first cookbook, called It All Begins With Food. Available from retailers on April 25, the book includes recipes that will feed the whole family, from baby purees and finger foods, through to family dinners, party food and lunchbox items.
In honour of her book release, Garrad-Cole shared five tips for getting kids excited about veggies and new foods, and is also sharing one of her favourite recipes for a banana bread packed with spinach.
Here are Leah Garrad-Cole’s five tips for getting your kids to be more adventurous with their food:
1. Keep offering new foods even if they don’t like it the first time(s)
Even though it may seem wasteful, do keep giving your kids foods they say they don’t like, or foods they don’t want to try. I’ve heard of so many instances where children have surprised their parents by just tucking in one day, and loving it! It’s good to start this with babies. Getting used to a flavour is part of growing to appreciate it – you can try the same food item, cooked a little differently to see if that changes the reaction.
2. Do the dip
If your child likes a particular dip or sauce, use it on a different food to increase the appeal. For example, if the kids will eat tamari on white rice, put some on quinoa or wild rice instead. Once the new food has become accepted, you can serve it with the dip as a side or a prop.
3. Get kids growing
Try to encourage your children to be involved in the “growing” process. If you have a garden, that’s great. Set aside some space for the kids to have their own vegetable patch. If space is limited, perhaps a window box or pot outside the front door could provide a mini oasis for them to see things sprout. The excitement of seeing their food grow will encourage them to eat it – but try planting something different they perhaps haven’t eaten before, as well as the tried and true carrots and beans!
4. Shop the farmers’ markets
Take a trip to the local farmers market. When children see fresh, locally grown produce, as opposed to supermarket stuff, they’re often surprised at the difference and interested to learn more. Size, colour, and especially taste is usually different than market produce, so letting them know this is the way fruits and vegetables SHOULD be in their organic state, is a really important lesson for their lives and their healthy futures. And definitely have them pick from the market a new vegetable they haven’t tasted before. They’ll be excited to try it if they’ve helped choose it!
5. Cook meals with the kids
Try cooking meal type foods with your children, not just sweet treats or baking. Often that’s what we’ll fall back on–but showing them from an early age how to make an omelet, salad, or chilli will give them some awesome life skills and inspire them to try healthy foods. You’ll be surprised how quickly little ones can master chopping and peeling, and once you’ve taught them safety and what not to do, you’ll appreciate not just the time you spend together, but also having an extra pair of hands to help you in the kitchen!
Popeye’s Banana Bread
Makes: 1 loaf / Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 1 hour
- 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted, + extra to grease the pan
- 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (see All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend, page 241)
- 2 Tbsp flaxseeds
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3 large ripe bananas 2 eggs
1/2 cup liquid honey
- 1 tsp ground chia seeds 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 packed cup chopped baby spinach leaves, stems removed
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a deep 9- × 5-inch loaf pan with coconut oil and then dust it with gluten-free flour. Even better, use a silicone loaf pan, which doesn’t need any prepara- tion and won’t stick.
- Place the flour, flaxseeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine.
- In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the bananas, eggs, honey, coconut oil, chia, and vanilla until completely smooth.
- Add the spinach and pulse gently until it is in very small pieces but not completely blended in. You don’t want to turn the mixture green by blending it too much.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix until just combined, and then stir in the nut pieces and chocolate chips (if using).
- Pour into the loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 hour.
- A toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf should come out clean, and the top should be dark golden.
- Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan and cooling on a wire rack. Slice off pieces as needed and serve plain or spread with butter or coconut oil. To store, wrap whatever is left unsliced in parchment paper or foil. This will keep well for a few days on the counter, or you can wrap slices individually and freeze them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Recipe excerpted from It All Begins With Food by Leah Garrad-Cole. Copyright © 2017 Leah Garrad-Cole. Photography copyright © 2017 Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.