By Guest Blogger Emily Lyons

Is there a night-time battle at your house?  A battle over veggies?  “You can have ice cream if you eat your broccoli!”  It’s so frustrating to see our children eating chips, goldfish, peanut butter crackers and chicken nuggets!  Don’t they want to be healthy?  Of course they do!  But it seems getting them to eat broccoli, carrots, brussel sprouts, or kale is a struggle!

It is suggested that we eat 9-10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.  WOW!  That means every meal, veggies have to be on the plate.  That sounds great but how do we get the fruit and veggies from the plate into our kids’ mouths?  As a mom of 4 children, I have had some success with several different strategies.

Remember the phrase, “If you build it, they will come”?  Well, former baseball players probably won’t walk out of the corn fields, but growing their own veggies entice children to eat their fruits of their labor.  There’s something exciting about planting seeds and nurturing them into plants.  Then to watch cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, or beans grow.  With a busy schedule, working part time, and creating summertime adventures, I wanted simple gardening.

We have both a raised bed as well as several containers on our deck.  In our bed, we have tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, eggplant, and ground cherries.  The children have loved checking each day on our plants, watching them sprout from seeds, to bearing produce!  I sent my 5-year-old one evening to harvest two cucumbers.  That night for dinner, I sliced those cucumbers.  My two sons, 5 and 7, ate the cucumbers, just simply sliced.  Harvesting the vegetables made them more special to my sons, so they wanted to eat them.

We discovered some new produce a couple of years ago when visiting the Greensboro Children Museum’s Edible Schoolyard.  The children discovered all kinds of fruits and vegetables, so different than the traditional tomatoes, cucumbers and squash grown in the summer here in the south.  Thanks to samples one day, my children learned how yummy ground cherries taste!  They resemble a tomatillo with their paper thin skin, but have a flavor of a pineapple tomato. We grow them from seeds in pots or containers.  The children would gather ripe ground cherries and feast on them!

I do love going to a produce stand or farmer’s market.  (Click HERE to see TMoM’s list of Triad Farmer’s Markets). My family gets to tag along as well when we go.  The children love to see the different produce.  I typically let them pick out one or two items each, with the stipulation they must taste it when it is prepared.  It may not be their favorite dish, but they do try it.  Seeing all of the produce that is locally grown, hearing the farmers talk about their cops, just makes a connection to what is prepared for their meals stronger.  And it’s more fun to buy from the farmer than that frozen plastic bag at the grocery store!

Like most families, we are busy! I don’t always make it to the downtown farmer’s market for our weekly produce. So I was thrilled to discover a service like The Produce Box.  It’s essentially a local box of produce delivered to your doorstep.  Like the farmer’s market, but in a box!  Our box comes very Friday.  My kids (including my husband) reacts as though that brown box is a Christmas present!  They get so excited to see what fruit and veggies we have.  The produce changes as the growing season evolves each year.  So in the early spring, we had kale, sweet potatoes, radishes, lettuces, carrots, greenhouse strawberries, and cabbage.  We learned to make kale chips from a recipe in the newsletter.  And yes, the kids ate them! They were so yummy!  I would let them help me prepare them, tossing them in a bag to be lightly covers with olive oil.  Seasoned with sea salt and a dash of garlic, we baked them at 350 degrees, flipping them around 12 minutes then baking for 12 more minutes.

This past June, we have received blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, Bibb lettuce, broccoli, carrots, snow peas, cucumbers, zucchini and squash.  The berries rarely last more than two days!  I typically out fruit out at very meal and snack time as an option.  We sauté the snow peas as well as the squash and zucchini.  The children devoured the snow peas!  They are one of my favorite veggies as well.  Seeing the squash and zucchini on the table, our seven year old son asked to try it.  (Proud mom moment, he asked instead of us begging!  Win one for us!). He liked them!  Even had seconds.  Same for the beets, he tried them as well!

We have now tried vegetables that I might not have bought in the store before!  Beets are now one of my favorite dishes, roasted, lightly tossed with a splash of olive oil and balsamic and some sprinkles of goat or feta cheese.  Delish!

At our dinner table each night, there is traditionally salads as well as two to three different vegetables.  Our teenage daughter is a vegetarian, which has increased our vegetable usage.  Roasting vegetables is my all-time favorite way to prepare most veggies.  Roasted sweet potatoes, beets, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and carrots are some of our favorites!  The seventeen year old and I will almost fight over Brussel sprouts!  They are so yummy roasted!  I don’t typically have sauces over our veggies either.  They are typically steamed or roasted.  Trees, aka broccoli, is fought over, steamed at dinner.  Seriously, they fight for the last serving!  Sometimes I will serve cut up carrots, celery, broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers in small dishes.  And the kids will eat them!  I’m always amazed!

One of the things that has helped our children to try vegetables is that they see us (Mom and Dad) eating them!  The five year old will ask for a salads some nights.  I didn’t eat a salad till I was EIGHTEEN!  Then it had to be smothered in ranch dressing!  It’s hard to expect our children to eat what we don’t (or won’t) eat.

Now, don’t think we have the perfect eaters every day in our house!  My four-year-old would be happy some days with a bag of Goldfish and blueberries!  But I do celebrate those little successes when they eat their veggies without a fight!

Do you have other suggestions to add to this post? Chime in! We’d love to hear from you!