GETTING YOUR FAMILY TO EAT THEIR GREENS
As energetic kids growing up under the rays of the warm Australian sun we all had one thing in common, not our notorious tans from the lack of knowledge about the sun’s harmful rays. No, it was the same consistent conversation over the dinner table coming from our parents about eating our vegetables, in particular, green vegetables. Now most of us are parents we are continuing that dialogue with our kids. It’s a tough gig being a parent, tough enough without having to have the endless pressure of getting your kids to eat their greens. But at least our kids aren’t sunburnt!
One thing I have learned from the 11 years of trying to get my little humans to eat more vegetables is to be realistic about your expectations. Kids simply don’t have a sophisticated palate, it comes with time. They have caveman palates, sweet is safe and bitter means danger. It’s a process that takes time. The best way to begin is to hide what you can. Grating, mashing and puree whatever works with what you are serving. Being sure to continue to offer the vegetables in their original form, they have to get used to the smell, texture and the fact they are being served with the food they love.
Another amazing way to tackle the green vegetable issue is to expand your own palate. Did you know there are over 1,000 plants with edible green leaves? Clearly, there are not 1,000 options to select from when you are doing your weekly grocery shop. We are creatures of comfort and habit, we stick to what we know, what we like and what we know how to prepare. But there are definitely options we are overlooking. Introducing new options will give you many more recipes, tastes and textures to try.
The importance of our health is undeniable. Green leafy vegetables contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants, all of which protect against chronic illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. They must be part of our regular meals.
So, what should we be aiming to get into our kid’s meals?
Top of the list for its higher levels of vitamins and minerals are the ones with the darker green leaf. Think spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, watercress and swiss chard. These amazing plants are a major source of magnesium because of its high chlorophyll content.
Chlorophyll is a cool nutrient for plants and for humans. If you can recall Year 8 science it’s the green pigment that’s found in green plants and algae that allows the plant to convert sunlight into energy aka photosynthesis. What does this mean for my kale? Well, it means that it this process has turned sunlight into food.
Sunlight = Green Food = HEALTH
All other green food contains wonderful nutrients, vitamins and minerals as well. Cucumber, celery, herbs, peas and beans are great options.
Forgetting about the kids for a moment, adults need to consume around 3-4 cups of dark leafy green vegetables each week. They are an essential dietary source of essential fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants as I mentioned above. They are packed with vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens are also an excellent source of folate, which again also aid in reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and also memory loss. Another wonderful perk of folate is its ability to assist in the production of serotonin which can help ward off depression and improve your mood.
Simply put we need to ensure we are eating the recommended amount vegetables no matter how difficult it can be. Green vegetables are essential to good health. So the conversation will continue in countless households tonight and for generations to come because it’s a conversation that is too important not to have.
Please Note: There can be issues for some people with dark leafy greens if you suffer from IBS or if you are taking blood thinner medication, be sure to talk to your health professional before you change your diet as these vegetable are rich in vitamin K which plays an important role in blood clotting.
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