In my experience, one of the most important ways to help children love vegetables is what I call Vegetable Immersion. It’s like language immersion, but with vegetables. Basically, you flood your home with as many different vegetables and vegetable laced dishes as possible.
My personal goal is at least two different kinds of vegetables at every meal, even breakfast, and at least one vegetable at every snack. Seem like a tall order? I’m going to show you what works for me.
1. Simple, easily memorized recipes. Sometimes I feel silly posting such simple recipes on this site, but that’s the only way I can take care of kids and provide vegetable immersion. Most recipes here are super easy to make, the techniques are transferable to other vegetables and you can memorize them within one or two times of making them. For vegetable immersion to work, you will need to be able to frequently make two different vegetable dishes at the last minute with a goal of getting them on the table within 10 minutes. It doesn’t work if you have to hunt for a recipe and gather more than five ingredients.
2. Simple, easy techniques. Make sure you know how to do a simple sauté, lightly steamed vegetable, nishime, slaw, blanched vegetable, baked vegetable and soup. Get a good sharp knife and a wooden cutting board you love. Learn some simple cutting techniques or take a knife skills class. All of these will go a long way in your ability to be versatile in the kitchen and to switch from broccoli to cabbage at the last minute when you realize the broccoli has gone bad.
3. A fridge full of those vegetables that work well with my simple recipes and techniques. I also emphasize vegetables that store well. Here are some vegetables I always have on hand: cabbage (red and green), carrots, kale or collard greens, cauliflower, red and daikon radishes, broccoli, green beans (in season), winter squash (in season), sweet potatoes, onions, frozen corn and peas. Frequently I also have rutabaga, turnips, lotus root, burdock and bok choy.
4. Invest in good quality ingredients. One day there will be a page on this site talking about ingredients, but for now I will highlight a few products I think are important, particularly if you are interested in trying some of my recipes. The ingredients I use make a huge difference in my ability to put together quick and tasty dishes in minutes.
I special order my miso, shoyu and brown rice vinegar from Natural Import Company. The products are very reasonably priced and the highest quality, but there are also some decent options at most natural food stores if you look. For miso, South River and Miso Master are both decent quality. Nama shoyu is ok. I use Eden brand unpasteurized vinegar and their stone ground mustard. I haven’t tried Spectrum brown rice vinegar but it might be worth trying. Just don’t get the sweetened version. Find a good quality sea salt, not just the white stuff in the bulk bin of your natural food store. Try different ones and see what you like. Always cook your salt into your food. That’s where the alchemy happens. I like SI sea salt, but it’s not always readily available. A good quality sea salt is like magic.
5. I eat vegetables at every meal and I eat what I serve the kids. In my experience, children, especially young ones, love simple foods. They like to be able to look at a food and tell what it is. They don’t need a lot of sauces or combinations of things. Over time your taste buds can evolve to love simple, easy vegetable dishes as well as the more complex ones. If they don’t already. Of course, the best way to help your children love vegetables is to become a vegetable lover yourself.