Like much in life, raising kids is all about give and take, except the takers will whine and (literally) cry if they don't get what they want, and they'll also tell you you're mean. The tug of wars extend to the food arena. Although I have diligently raised my children with daily helpings of fresh vegetables, I still find myself making deals with them when it comes to eating some of them. Broccoli and kale are no problem. Swiss chard is a favorite. Olives and sea weed actually top the list of most beloved foods. But Brussels sprouts, asparagus and summer squash are trouble.
I know plenty of parents who simply don't serve the vegetables their kids dislike, while others hide the vegetables in the food. I have to say that I think these ideas are a mistake. Kids have many reasons for striking a vegetable off the list. From hearing on the playground that something is gross, to remembering (or misremembering) when something looked icky, those sweet and adorable little opinionated people have many reasons for rejecting entire plant families outright. But we need to remember that these are the same kids who decided they hate pink after years of wanting to wear only that color. So instead of caving in to what is often a misinformed judgment (spinach is NOT slimy all the time; it’s only like that when Aunt YouKnowWho makes it), I say we parents stand firm (which includes not serving mushy vegetables). Let's teach our kids that vegetables are crisp, crunchy, sweet and tasty. Plus it's our jobs as parents to educate them about the nuances of life. Sure, overcooked cauliflower has a pungent smell, but sauté it in olive oil on high heat with sea salt and those florets taste sweet and even a bit nutty.
But getting kids to try (or sometimes retry after years of happy consumption) a vegetable may take some bargaining. For instance, earlier this week when I was dropping Brussels sprouts in a bag while shopping, my daughter Maddie held up her hand (imagine the international sign for STOP) and exclaimed, "I don't like Brussels sprouts anymore." My first thought was "Huh? You've always loved Brussels sprouts"; but my second thought was "Too bad; you're eating them anyway." And so I bargained.
"Well what other vegetable do you like? We can have that one tomorrow."