As parents, we know our kids need their fruits and vegetables, but getting children to actually eat them presents a never-ending challenge. Most of us probably don’t realize that food avoidance is often based in fear rather than defiance. Kids don’t want to put a new texture and flavor in their mouths when it’s “good for them.” That means it’s almost definitely gross! Cooking vegetables the right way is not as simple as boiling or pan frying, which can leach flavor and even nutrients from them. For my daughter, smell is particularly critical for her willingness to take a bite, and healthy foods do not typically conjure up the kitchen aromas that butter and sugar can. Parents who work tirelessly to feed their family a healthy, balanced diet face ongoing rejection and often either have to choose to give up or spend hours at the table. This cycle, meal after meal, is enough to convince you to give in with junk food, but there is a better way that encourages kids to step out of their comfort zone.
Rather than battling them, try to work with the kids to find creative and delicious ways to incorporate healthy foods into their diet. That could mean trying several different preparations for the same vegetable or even the number of ingredients in a dish. My daughter likes salads with finely chopped greens, cucumbers, and olives—that’s it—and we can put just about anything in a taco shell, between two slices of bread, or in a smoothie. I also choose my battles; she loves Brussels sprouts and hates broccoli, so Brussels sprouts it is. But the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to be a good role model. Your kids are going to mimic your eating habits, and when our kids see us enjoying eating a healthy meal, it encourages them to do the same. Try stepping out of your comfort zone too and pick up a new vegetable every week.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but putting in the effort to find healthy meals your kids will like means you’re creating healthy eating habits they will carry for life.
Try my Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taquitos recipe below, and check out these other success tips for even more ideas!
1. Get rid of the prepackaged snacks and stock your fridge full of washed and ready-to-eat fruits and veggies. Keep them at eye level—front and center and fast for kids to grab.
2. Let kids help out in the kitchen. Children are far more likely to dig into a new dish if they helped prepare it!
3. Texture can play a huge role, so offer produce in different ways. Try baking, roasting, steaming, or frozen smoothies.
4. Serve fruits and vegetables with every meal and incorporate them into the main dish when possible. Apple-carrot slaw, zucchini muffins, and beet fries are a few of our favorites!
5. Most kids will eat raw veggies if they have a good dip. We always have hummus on hand!
Prep Time: 20 min. Cook Time: 30 min. Yields: 12–15 servings
* For an easy metric conversion chart, search the Internet for “metric kitchen.”
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
• 3 tablespoons oil
• 1 small red onion, chopped
• 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
• 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 cup frozen sweet corn
• 12–15 7″ (fajita size) flour tortillas
• 1 1/2 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
• 1 cup Greek yogurt
• 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
• juice of 1 lime
• salt and pepper
WHAT YOU’LL DO:
CILANTRO LIME CREAM
1. In a small bowl whisk together Greek yogurt, lime juice, cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper.
3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sweet potato, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and sauté until soft, about 5–7 minutes.
4. Lower heat and add the cumin and garlic, combine, and sauté another 3–5 minutes.
5. Add corn, black beans, and cheese. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
1. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the sweet potato-bean mixture onto the bottom third of a tortilla and roll up.
2. Place taquito, seam side down, on oiled parchment paper. Continue until mixture is used up, placing taquitos very close together to prevent them from unrolling during baking time.
3. Brush taquitos with remaining oil and bake for 20 minutes. Flip over and bake another 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
4. Serve with cilantro lime cream.