I live on Long Island with my wife, Tara. We have a boy and a girl, Lily and Cian. And they do definitely love their vegetables. In fact, there are many instances where we’ll try to have an easy night for dinner and order pizza or something like that, but they protest. They prefer vegetables.
Lily loves broccoli. She can eat broccoli every day, every night, every way, raw, cooked, you name it. And Cian, he loves sweet peppers. LOVES sweet peppers. And they both have a fondness for sweet peas — the whole pea in the pod. Sugar snaps I believe is what they’re called.
If we go out to the playground or somewhere where we’ll need a snack, what we’ve found that our kids like that’s an easy snack is dehydrated vegetables. You can buy them at the store this way. They’re made out of carrot slices, or like whole green beans that are dehydrated. They usually have some oil and salt on them.
And we make our own kale chips like this at home. Kale — it’s a green, leafy, lettuce-like thing. Like romaine lettuce, sort of. You can break it up into pieces and throw it into the oven, and it takes maybe ten minutes on a low setting. We put some olive oil and sea salt on it, and it crisps right up until it’s almost like potato chips. The kids love it.
We can also make a whole meal out of a veggie platter with ranch dressing. And I haven’t even mentioned that the kids are huge fruit fans.
So how did we accomplish this? I truly think that the whole process started when my wife was pregnant. She did a lot of reading suggesting that what you eat when you’re pregnant affects what your children will eat. So when she was pregnant, we tried to eat more exotic things like stir fries and vegetables. I honestly don’t know if there’s any truth to that or not. But we did it.
The next step was that when our daughter was born, she breastfed for about eight months, and then, when she went to formula and baby foods and things like that, we tried things that were different, like tofu. We gave her things like squash and green beans, and we just always pointed both kids toward things that kids typically dislike so that they would just get used to those things.
However, I feel the most important thing we do that gets the kids excited about eating vegetables is that we do a garden every summer. The kids get out there with us and help tend the garden and grow the vegetables and see what they’re gonna eat while it’s growing.
Right now, we live on Long Island, and we’re very fortunate to have found a property that has a large yard, big enough to have a garden and also have room for the kids to play. But when we lived in Potsdam in northern New York state, we did all our vegetables out of planters — tomatoes, peppers, and those types of plants. We had a patio. But I bet you could do something similar even with a window sill or something like that.
Even if it’s not a big garden, even if it’s just one plant, the process of growing a plant from a seedling and watching it grow into something that you can hold, touch, and eat makes kids appreciate what they’re eating in a different way.
Brady Dobbin is a Project Coordinator at Cives Steel Company. This piece is as told to Disney Dads via interview.