I’ve have a
difficult impossible time getting my kids to eat leafy greens served in their virgin (i.e. you can tell it’s something green and leafy and good for you on your plate) form. I’ve sauteed the kale in bacon and covered it in a mountain of parmesan cheese. No go for the bear cubs. I’ve made kale chips and offered yummy things to dip them in. No way Jose. I’ve made to-die for cream sauces to coat the spinach and collards and turnip greens and beet greens. Nada interest. They won’t even taste it in exchange for all sorts of bribes.
And yet I know that leafy greens are one of the best things I can get into the bear cubs’ little bodies. Leafies are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other key plant elements that are good for the heart and have even been shown to fight disease.
So I’m constantly on the prowl for creative ways to get the leafies into my kiddies without them knowing it. I still cook and serve leafies in their virgin form at the dinner table. They are regularly consumed by the Hubs and I, and the bear cubs’ portions go cold on their plates. Dr. Sears says I need to offer them at least 20 times before my kids will try them. I think in my house, I’ll be offering them 200 times before they take so much as a lick.
Here are some of the most effective ways I get leafies in my kids these days. I would LOVE to hear from other moms of picky leafy eaters how you get the high-octane greens in your little ones.
1. Green Smoothies
My kids eat a smoothie with their lunch almost every day. They love it. My 15-month-old sits in his high chair practically yelling for his shake when he sees me loading the blender. They both drink their smoothies down to the last drop, provided I get the concoction right. Here’s what we usually include:
– Kefir (great source of probiotics, I give the kids the flavored store-bought variety. It masks my leafy secrets in a way that straight kefir does not).
– ground flax seed
– 1-2 scoops protein powder***
– half frozen banana
– large handful of frozen berries
– 1+ cups of raw leafy greens. If it’s spinach, I can pack at least 1 packed cup or 2 loose cups of spinach into the shake. Kale, collards, beet greens, turnip greens etc are much stronger in flavor so I have to be careful not to upset the balance of fruit flavor with too much bitterness. Or both boys will protest loudly and refuse to drink their favorite beverage.
***[We use a special protein powder blend that my Hubs’ designed for our kids at http://www.proteinfactory.com. Since you can pick your ingredients at Protein Factory, we can leave out sugar, fake sweeteners, and certain types of protein that are fine for adults but not great for little bodies.]
One more hint: the BPA-free plastic cups with built-in straws that Old Navy sells are the PERFECT shake cups. They usually retail for about $5 each, but I snagged a bunch this month at Old Navy on clearance for $1.49 each. Maybe your ON has a similar sale right now too. These cups are especially great for when the mom puts too much kale in the smoothie and the 15-month-old chucks the cup across the kitchen. It might leak a tiny but but it doesn’t explode like a normal cup would.
A big pot of chili is one of my favorite ways to hide high-octane veggies in a way my family can enjoy eating them. As long as the flavors of chili powder and cumin and cayenne are strong enough, you can’t taste the kale or other leafies one bit. It’s a great way to get leafies in adults as well as kids!
3. Collard Greens Pie
I started making Collard Greens Pie for my family last summer when our weekly CSA farm boxes showed up brimming with collards and other leafies. I’ve substituted pretty much all the leafies in this pie and it always tastes amazing. My toddler still doesn’t like it, but my other men sure do.
4. Spinach Mac n Cheese
Found this recipe on Pinterest: Skinny Spinach Mac n Cheese Cupcakes.
I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I’m fairly confident my Hubs and my youngest will love it. It’s the toddler bear who might still refuse it because you can see the green specs, but I’m sure gonna try! (I’ll be making a gluten free version – if it turns out right I’ll let y’all know).
That’s what’s working in the kiddies and leafies department here thus far. Send me your advice and ideas, Mamas. I’d sure love to find more creative ways to get the good stuff in my sweeties.
In the meantime, long live green smoothies!