The dreaded V word
Sooner or later there comes a moment that all doctors working with overweight kids dread. We pause, take a breath and utter the ‘V’ word. Vegetables. Suddenly the mother trembles, the father dives for cover and the kid erupts with some version of ‘Eewwwwwww! Yuck.’ Of course there’s nothing in a child’s nature that makes him hate vegetables. If there were, humans would have died out from malnutrition generations ago. Vegetables don’t have to be a battle. But they do have to be tasty. And you don’t have to be sneaky. It’s better for all concerned if kids understand why veggies are important for their health and learn to enjoy them.
Eleven year old Sam and his mother Tricia were generally pleased with the progress made during their first few months at OEL. Sam had really made substantial improvements with his diet and was getting to be more active. However, he simply refused to eat vegetables. Period. Tricia, who held down a demanding full-time job was honest in admitting she was no Julia Child. ‘I’m not a great cook, and my husband is worse,’ she said. Nevertheless, each night she dutifully prepared a balanced meal consisting of protein, low GI starch and … canned vegetables. She was frustrated Sam wouldn’t even give them a try. Cautiously I said I possibly wouldn’t eat canned veggies either. I told Tricia that I appreciated how little time she had, but making veggies tasty doesn’t take much time. In fact they have to look good, taste good, smell good and feel good. Here’s my tips that helped Tricia get Sam to gobble up his greens. I hope they help you get your very own ‘refusenik’ asking for more.
- Make a salad of crispy lettuce tossed in a vinaigrette dressing with raw veggies such as tiny tomatoes, carrot rings, celery slices, pieces of capsicum (sweet pepper)
- Stir fry any fresh green leafy vegetable (spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens) in a pan with a little olive oil, garlic and a tiny pinch of salt if you wish and stir over a medium heat.
- Bake sliced zucchini topped with a favourite red pasta sauce in the oven for twenty or thirty minutes.
- Steam just about any vegetable until just tender, sprinkle with reduced-fat grated cheese and enjoy.
- Juice some veggies or add them to soups or serve vegetable finger foods with dips.
And as Kaye Foster-Powell says in her Low GI Family Cookbook: ‘Don’t leave vegetables till the end of the day. Young children especially can be tired and fragile by dinnertime so getting them to eat their dinner let alone the vegetables is a big ask. Try to incorporate 3 vegetables as a normal part of eating throughout the day from raw carrot and celery sticks as snacks to salad with their lunchtime sandwich.’
Dr David Ludwig
– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight