Don’t Hide the Vegetables

Don't hide the vegetables in your toddlers food. alexismathews.com

Are you a parent of a toddler (or 3 like myself)?

It is well known and often times thoroughly discussed among toddler parents that children generally dislike vegetables with a passion. So much so in fact that parents have had to take extreme measures to make sure their children are getting sufficient servings of vegetables everyday. Or perhaps, if you child is a steadfast non-vegetable eater you are happy with a few servings a week.

I have also sat in on many a conversation with my mom friends as they discussed the various and ingenious ways that they had crafted to hide vegetables in their child’s food.  From cutting them up into teeny weeny pieces and adding them to spaghetti sauce. I have even heard Moms discuss various smoothie recipes they create which effectively hide nutritious servings of vegetables.

I will be the first person to tell you that sometimes these extreme measures are necessary. Especially for children that have not grown up with undisguised vegetables on their serving plate. 

There are a few reasons why hiding vegetables can become necessary:

  1. As I mentioned above, hiding vegetables can become necessary when a child has not grown up seeing vegetables served on their plate.
  2. Secondly, it is a well known fact that children look to their parents for food guidance. If the parents aren’t eating vegetables themselves then the children certainly won’t either.
  3. Lastly, sometimes parents give up too quickly when trying to serve their children a new vegetable. If the child refuses once, most parents won’t try again. You have to serve a child a food regularly to expose them to it and eventually they will learn to like it.

As a mother of three toddlers, twin three year old girls and a younger two year old son, I can vehemently say that I do not hide vegetables from my toddlers or any of my children for that matter. I can also attest to the fact that my children all get a hearty daily serving of vegetables each and every day, pure, unadulterated, and prominent on their plate.

The inspiration for this post came this evening as I was sitting down to eat my dinner. As usual my toddlers had finished early and came to see what Mom was eating. Again as usual, they wanted what was on my plate. Tonight it was lightly sautéed green beans, broccoli, and zucchini. I ate maybe three bites of my vegetables before two of my toddlers devoured every last bite on my plate. Yes, they ate green beans, broccoli, and zucchini right off of my plate without the slightest bit of disguise.

How did I teach my children, including my 2 and 3 year olds to enjoy vegetables?

Simple, I didn’t make a big deal out of vegetables. I never stressed over whether they were getting enough vegetables in their daily diet. Slowly but surely they learned to enjoy the fresh veggies they were regularly served. And that is the key, we regularly serve fresh veggies to all of our children. We don’t smother them in salt, butter, or any other things to mask the taste. Our vegetables are typically lightly sautéed in EVOO or in fresh green salads, nothing more nothing less. 

Also, my children see my husband and I happily eating our vegetables everyday. They haven’t grown up with the concept that vegetables are something to be avoided. We happily embrace our vegetables, even before we chose a vegan lifestyle. 

Lastly, don’t stress over your child eating vegetables. Trust me when I say that if you regularly serve your child vegetables they will learn to eat them, you just have to stop hiding them in the first place.

To summarize, how to teach your children to enjoy vegetables;

  1. Don’t make a big deal out of eating and enjoying vegetables.
  2. Let your children see you eat the same vegetables you served them on their plate.
  3. Don’t stress over how many vegetables your child is eating, they will learn to love them. You just have to stop hiding them.

I’d like to encourage you to stop hiding the vegetables in your toddler’s food but rather serve them in their natural whole state. By doing so you are beginning to teach your children to love vegetables, not avoid them.

What is your child’s favorite vegetable? 

If you are looking for some toddler friendly recipes which include vegetables you might enjoy Incredible Indian Pancakes, Ginger & Tumeric Carrot Soup, or Colorful Raw Quinoa Salad

Vegan and Gluten Free Snack Ideas for Kids at the Beach or Park

boardwalk beach

Beach and park weather is right around the corner or depending on where you live the warm weather might be here already. Feeding children healthy and nutritious vegan gluten-free snacks at home is easy enough once your find your routine and what your children enjoy eating. What about when you are out and about enjoying the outdoors? Convenient and easy to transport vegan gluten-free meals and snacks are not always the easiest things to create.

We are a busy family of 9 who seems to always be on the go for one reason or another. Once our homeschool work is complete we are typically outside or off an on outing to enjoy the beautiful climate we live in. This has forced me to get creative when planning and packing for all of my hungry children on our outings. As any mother will tell you, snacks are an absolute necessity when going any where with children. Healthy and nutritious food can stave off temper tantrums induced by a hungry tummy and keep everyone happy while you enjoy the outdoors. Don’t let your healthy lifestyle and eating habits waver just because you are away from home and the comforts of your kitchen. Plan ahead and save yourself stress!

Here is a list of my favorite snacks to pack for my large crew when we are out and about.

  • Fresh fruits such as bananas, apple slices, and orange slices
  • Almond butter to dip banana or apple slices (provides an excellent source of protein)
  • Dried fruit free of sweeteners or sulfites
  • Late July Sea salt by the Seashore chips
  • Carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and other fun finger food fresh veggies
  • Seaweed in personal snack packs
  • Cucumbers, peeled with a touch of sea salt
  • Rice crackers
  • Sandwich idea: almond butter and organic jelly on gluten free bread or rolled in rice tortillas
  • Trail mix with raw cashews, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and raisins
  • and anything else that you can think of which your children enjoy, fits your food choices, and is easily transported
  • popcorn

Do you have a favorite vegan or gluten-free kid friendly snack idea not listed above? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Shared at Share Your Stuff Tuesday

The Author and History Behind Health Matters with Alexis Mathews

Author History_HM

With every change their is a journey, a process by which you arrived at your current situation. Along that journey choices are made, decisions debated, regrets surmised, and hopefully ultimately growth achieved. Our journeys all appear different, follow different paths, take varying forks in the road but in the end we can end up at the same destination.

Health Matters.

The destination for myself and my family is a vegan lifestyle. No not a diet, truly in every sense of the word a lifestyle. Diets are temporary, lifestyles are permanent changes, the way in which you live your everyday life with no foreseeable end in sight.

My “healthy lifestyle” journey started so long ago I dare not put a timeline on the beginning. First it was a few organic fruits and vegetables which morphed into all organic fruits and vegetables. Then it became non-GMO and organic everything, meat and dairy included as well as all grains, flours, everything. From there we began raw dairy and meats straight from the farmer. For a while as we lived and enjoyed the organic, raw, and meat from the farmer lifestyle I thought we had arrived. Truly arrived at the ultimately healthiest lifestyle we could achieve. I was baking my own crackers, making our butter, enjoying fresh raw buttermilk, growing our own garden and canning/preserving like a mad crazy woman. I enjoyed this life I truly did. Then it happened.

We made a decision. Our life took a different path. We moved.

Gone were my raw dairy and meat farmer sources. Gone was my bi-weekly shopping routine. We returned to the chaos of Southern California and my life turned upside down. Then it something else happened. My husband and I finally sat down and listened to his parents go on and on about their vegan “diet”, or so they called it. For months leading up to this conversation, I had greatly reduced my personal meat consumption, never having consumed nearly normal the amount of dairy that the average american “enjoys” everyday. My meat-loving husband on the other hand hadn’t even considered a change such as this. The turning point came when my in-laws returned from a week long cruise in which they heard lectures from leading vegan scientists and doctors such as T. Colin Campbell Ph D. and Caldwell B. Esselstyn MD. After this cruise my once steadfast Father-in-law had made the choice after hearing the evidence to remove all animal protein sources from his diet, something that his wife, my mother-in-law had done quite some time ago. If his Dad had made the choice, that was enough evidence for my husband to try vegan for 21 days. Yes, this lifestyle started with a simple 21 day pledge to remove all animal protein from our diets.

With 7 kids, a family of 9 to feed, my menu plan went straight out the window. Now what?

Onward we marched though and those 3 weeks turned into months. We started seeing changes almost immediately. I started to lose those extra pounds I couldn’t seem to shake after having 3 kids in 1 year. My husband, an adult-onset type-1 diabetic, noticed changes in his blood glucose levels within just 3 days for the better. 6 weeks into the journey, he was able to reduce his daily insulin intake from over 20 units per day previously to 3 maybe 4 units all day, not including a long acting once daily shot he has to take. This personal evidence alone was enough to make us new believers in a vegan lifestyle. At that point it truly had become a lifestyle. How could we go back to feeding our bodies animal proteins when the health benefits were staring us in the face. Why would we intentionally poison our bodies with something that was clearly exacerbating my husband’s diabetic condition?

The journey to a vegan lifestyle has been paved with ups and downs, lessons learned, and experiences encountered. As a large family Mom, I’m not only changing my own eating habits but I am creating lifelong lifestyle habits for my children. We are raising the next generation of health conscious, healthy living minded people. We are working to educate our children on the whys and hows of our new found health freedom, they must acquire this knowledge if they are going to put it into practice in their own adult lives and families.

Why health matters?

Health matters because we’ve one got one body. One life, one life to live the best we possibly can. Food is our fuel and our daily choices either power our bodies or drag them down. Health matters because healthy living is a lifestyle not a diet.

This blog was born out of a a long history of education both in biology and nutrition that has culminated in the healthiest and happiest I have ever personally felt in my entire life, nearly 40 years (ouch did I just say that?). Honestly though, I mean every bit of that through and through. My weight is under control, my emotions are not all over the place, all in all I can feel that my body is functioning the way it was meant to live.

Through this platform I will explore a myriad of aspects living a vegan lifestyle, share with your healthy, affordable, and easy to prepare meal ideas, and most of all I want to come alongside of you and help you on your journey to a healthier and happier life.