Somehow we raised three (out of four) little boys who ate their vegetables willingly. I mean, they ate their vegetables gladly. Like: no battles. Sure, they avoided a few specific varieties: mushrooms and beets I believe, but from asparagus, to steamed broccoli, to spinach and kale salads, they were all in. In fact, raw onions were a favorite to those first three.
Of course those first three were born during my husband’s medical school and residency years, when Dave was especially aware of the link between diet and disease. He’s always fallen into the “eat to live” rather than “live to eat” category anyways, but he wanted to raise boys who also saw food as fuel. I have memories of him opening the fridge, grabbing a pinch of raw spinach, turning to one of the young boys and saying “open”. They opened their mouth, he inserted the spinach and they ate it. Just like that. No tears. No arguments.
Well I had no idea just how crazy that was until son #4 arrived and was innately determined to never, ever, ever join the “open mouth and insert spinach” club.
Son #4 resisted veggies from the start. He didn’t want to eat them on his own and he most certainly didn’t want anyone shoving them into his mouth.
In fact, to this day watching him eat a miniature serving of salad (because we do require that much) is a sight to behold: He pushes the salad around his plate, studies each baby spinach leaf, and cuts it in half. And then again. He dips it in dressing, then wipes a bit of dressing off…all the while hoping that the family might all fall into a deep sleep from the exhaustion of watching him so he can quietly dump it all in the trash and be done. When he realizes we will not quit watching, he slowly, ever-so-carefully inserts his barely loaded fork into his barely open mouth. Starting always with a dramatic gag, he then begins to slowly chew, contorting his face fifteen ways until four or five minutes later the entire family is leaned over the table screaming “JUST SWALLOW IT!” and in a painful moment…he does. I don’t know if it’s more a battle of wills, or a dislike for vegetables, but either way, trust me when I say: you don’t want to have dinner with us when there is salad on Levi’s plate.
Perhaps you also have had a kid or two who entered the world at odds with vegetables. If so then I’m sure you have stories, too. (Talk to me in comments, would you? Misery loves company)
Thankfully we discovered the fruit/veggie packets that come in little squeezable containers (found in baby food section of the grocery store), and Levi still uses those to supplement his diet. (We tease him that one day I’ll send care packages to college filled with Gerber squeezable fruit and veggie mixes.) He also eats Juice Plus gummies every day, which are a whole food supplement containing 17 raw fruits and veggies. (quick note on that at the bottom of this post.) And because of those two things, at least I can sleep at night.
And yes, I have learned all of the sneaky techniques of packing mixed or blended vegetables into meatballs, smoothies, muffins, and anywhere else I possibly can.
But the truth is: I want my kids to LIKE vegetables. I want Levi to eat them willingly. (a mom can dream…)
So onward I march.
We have made some progress: In the last year Levi announced that he likes raw carrots, and cucumbers “sometimes.” He likes them, he says, IF he can dip them in ranch dressing.
Whatever, kid. Here’s your ranch, now show me your stuff.
I have bought my share of ranch dressings at the grocery store, and I let him dip and double dip his carrots, celery, and cucumbers. But knowing that most ranch dressings off the shelf are full of preservatives and ingredients I cannot pronounce, I wanted to nail a recipe he would like that I could make at home. It was way easier than I thought, and in case a few of you could use it too, I thought I would share my homemade ranch dressing recipe here.
This recipe is simple — simple is usually the best when it comes to kids’ preferences. If I put in too many herbs (or as Levi calls them “what are those GREEN THINGS!!!??”) then he won’t like it. So I keep the “green things” to a minimum. As always, I suggest you vary the herbs as fits your family’s tastes.
Also, most ranch dressing recipes call for buttermilk, but mine does not. This is because I rarely have buttermilk on hand, and honestly, I like using fresh milk and fresh lemon juice (which combined is also a short-cut for making buttermilk.) I add whatever herbs I have on hand, but pretty much always use dill, garlic salt, parsley, sea salt and pepper. Also, you’ll see I list mayonnaise as “optional”. I usually leave it out, but it does add that nice mayonnaise zing, so sometimes I add it. Totally up to you.
The first time Levi tried this (with a raw carrot stick) he announced, “This tastes like CANDY!” hahaha… Then he said it was ten times better than the store-bought kind. OK then. I’ll keep making it.
Here’s the printable recipe:
- ¾ cup sour cream (to make it thicker for just dipping, you might want a full cup.)
- ½ cup 2% or whole milk
- ½ cup mayonnaise --optional. (I use the olive oil based kind)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (to mix with milk to make buttermilk) + 1-2tsp. lemon juice for dressing/dip
- 1-2 tsp tsp. dried parsley (or if fresh chopped, you can use up to 2 Tablespoons)
- ½ tsp. dried dill weed
- ½-1 tsp. sea salt (I use a full teaspoon)
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- Combine the milk and lemon juice in a small bowl and let sit for ten minutes (this is the cheater version of buttermilk)
- Combine the sour cream, milk/lemon juice mixture, mayonnaise, and all herbs with a whisk until smooth
- Put into a sealed container and refrigerate.
- Use to dip veggies or toss on a salad.
- Keep container in fridge for up to a couple of weeks
Hope your family likes this too. And if you have any genius ways to get your kids to eat vegetables, please share in comments. Or…feel free to tell your own stories about kids and vegetables. They put us through this stuff, we should at least get to laugh about it.
Aloha and see you soon!
PS: ABOUT JUICE PLUS: Our family has been taking Juice Plus for around 18 years (since before my first son was born.) I spent some years working as a distributor supporting Doctors who offered it to their patients, and though I do not do it so much as a business now, I have kept my distributorship and we all take it faithfully. (CLICK HERE to check it out.) If you or your children could use more fruits and veggies in your diet, I do believe Juice Plus is an excellent product, and would love for you to use my link to order. (My hubby has read the medical research behind it and also believes it is a great supplement!) Also should note: When I make smoothies I also use the Juice Plus complete powder. Let me know if you have questions or need help figuring out what to order! 😉