“Eat up your vegetables, they’re good for you” – this is a mantra that’s been passed down the generations since time immemorial. We’ve all had it said to us and, as parents, we probably are now saying it to our kids while privately thinking “OMG, I sound just like my mother”. I can remember regularly being admonished by my grandmother who would tell me to eat my cabbage because it would put hair on my chest! As a young girl, it didn’t occur to me to tell her that the last thing I wanted was hairs on my chest. I didn’t particularly like cabbage (or any other boiled/stewed vegetables for that matter). However, as an adult I’ve been totally vegetarian for more than 30 years and actually love vegetables nowadays, especially when they’re raw and crunchy.
There’s such a huge range of interesting vegetables available nowadays, compared with when I was a kid, that getting children to eat their veg is not the challenge it once was. We all know that boiling vegetables very often ruins the nutritional content and eating raw vegetables is a great way of getting maximum goodness as well as maximum taste. However, some vegetables are actually better for you cooked. Here’s a list of some of the most common vegetables and how to get the best nutritional value from them:
Onions – raw
Spinach – cooked (although baby spinach leaves taste luscious raw)
Red peppers – raw
Tomatoes – cooked
Mushrooms – cooked
Broccoli – raw
Asparagus – cooked
Beets – raw
These are only guidelines, of course, and it’s up to you (and your kids) how you like to eat your vegetables best.
Kids will enjoy vegetables much more if they’re juicy and crunchy – they just taste so much better. A platter of raw vegetables will give the kids the option of choosing raw vegetables at mealtimes and will save you a lot of time on preparing and cooking them. Some great raw additions to the tea table are:
Sugar snap or mange tout peas
Slices of red and green peppers
Swede sticks (try them, swede tastes much nicer raw)
Broccoli and cauliflower florets
Thinly sliced red cabbage
Baby sweet corn
Another great favourite of mine is a combination of grated carrot and apple. You can grate the carrots in advance (choose sweet baby carrots, rather than great big old ones) and grate on the apple just before serving to stop it going brown. This really is a tasty combo and you can add some sultanas to spice things up a little.
If your kids are into dips, then getting them to eat raw veg should be easy – just add a pot of dip for them to dunk their veg sticks into. Whether you use hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata or just plain mayonnaise, if it gets them eating more vegetables it’s worth it.