Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Snack Time - Yes Really

Yes, this is actually a snack at my house, and yes my kids eat it.
No, they don't always eat it, and yes they some times have pretzels or cheese or even a cookie, and they love when they can snag some cheddar goldfish from their friends on the playground. But, they do eat vegetables for a snack, and I'll tell you how.

On really busy nights when I am scrambling to get dinner ready, I often distract my hungry kids with a video for 30 minutes until dinner is ready. Now, just so you know it is not easy for me to say that I plop my kids in front of a movie, ever. I was raised with a crazy relationship to television; made to feel like it was bad for me at my mom's house where it was hardly allowed, and entranced by it like a zombie at my dad's house where it was on all the time, in every room. But, needless to say, I do let them watch videos, and since right before dinner they are so hungry and I'm trying to buy some time before dinner is ready, I often chop up a bunch of vegetables for them while I'm cooking, hand them to the kids while they're watching a movie and silently slip away. (Only to return a few minutes later to see all the vegetables gone.)
My kids staring at a movie, munching on delicious veggies.

The combination of hungry kids right before dinner and a bowl of vegetables is a good one. The added distraction of a video, while unfortunate, also keeps them occupied, so they eat the fresh delicious food in front of them without running into the kitchen pulling at my legs and complaining about being hungry.  Then when dinner is ready, they are still hungry for the rest of the meal, and I don't have to keep reminding them to eat their vegetables through dinner.

Another plus to this is that because they often eat the vegetables when they are hungry, they taste better to them and they like them more. They also love eating them picked fresh from the garden, so we are waiting eagerly for our seedlings to sprout us some food! 

Many years ago, before I became a chef, I worked as a teacher in Brooklyn and in Boston, running after school programs. I would always try to include as many fresh fruits and vegetables into our snacks as possible, and despite people saying "kids don't like vegetables", those kids always ate their veggies, and were happy for them! Sometimes you have to do a little cajoling to get kids to try a new food, but often if you can get them to take a taste, or if they see a friend eating a pepper and saying "yum" they will like it and be better off for it!

Some vegetables and fruits that make great (and affordable) snacks are:
sugar snap peas
green beans
bell peppers
cherry tomatoes
apple slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them
clementimes or oranges
broccoli -steamed or blanched
cauliflower - steamed or blanched
orange slices

Note: nuts are another great snack when kids are hungry. I often give them some vegetables or fruits and a small bowl of nuts. These foods don't fill them up so much that they won't eat dinner, but give them a lot of great nutrients and the nuts add protein.

As part of the work I did for the New Haven Cooks - cookbook, through CitySeed, funded by the CT Department of Public Health, we did fresh fruit and vegetable tastings around New Haven, CT at schools and at community events. This was a family day at the Peabody museum, thousands of kids were there and all of our fruits and vegetables were eaten. The board you see behind me says "Try Me" and kids got to vote on which foods that they tried they liked, and to describe the flavors of the foods. it was a fun interactive way to get kids engaged and thinking about what they eat. Then they made stickers showing what was in their tummy.
please leave any comments below


  1. I have to tell you I thought from the title this was going to be a sanctimonious post about how great it is that your kids eat vegetables all the time, but it wasn't and it was a great post, and I appreciate the simple hint. My daughter claims to not like veggies but totally does eat them in the right environment. I am totally going to try this. the nuts are a good idea too. Thank you for offering help rather than just tut tutting about how badly some kids eat. I get really tired of talking with other parents about what their kids eat all the time. And PS: your kids are adorable.

  2. Wow! thank you so much! yes, I know what you mean about the "tut tutting". I try my best to feed them healthy food, but it is really hard in the society we live in sometimes. My mom fed us tons of healthy food, but I would sneak out and eat junk food anyway. I just try and strike a balance with what we eat, and get as much fresh food into my kids as I can (even if it means them eating on the couch in front of a movie) Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and for reading!

  3. We introduced our oldest daughter (8) to all types of foods as a child and now she loves things some people may think are unusual for a child. She will actually ask for things like baby carrots or red bell pepper strips for a snack. And our younger daughter (6), who actually didn't eat by mouth for the first four years of her life due to medical issues, will tell you how much she LOVES salmon and steamed broccoli. Go figure! :-)