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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Vegetables and Children

Frugal Kitchens 101
There is a perpetual myth that children do not like vegetables.  While some foods are an acquired taste, in reality children will like what they are exposed to at an early age.  A child especially one under the age of six cannot go out and get food on their own.  They are dependent on the parent to do this for them.  If a parent feeds the child a diet rich in heavily processed foods, high in sodium, high in sugars, high in food additives of which we now know some are habit forming, that is more than likely what the child will eat later in life, and worse what the child will feed their children.  However, if a parent feeds the child healthy foods, heavier on the fruits and vegetable side, home cooked meals, as well as a variety of culinary experiences, that child will go on to more than likely foster those same ideals.  In turn, they will go onto pass those ideals onto their children.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends children ages 2 to 3 eat four servings of fruits and vegetables daily, children ages 4 to 8 five servings, children ages 9 to 13 six servings and those 14 to 18 seven servings for girls and eight servings.  Adults ages 19 to 50 should eat 7 to 8 servings for women and 8 to 10 servings for men.  Those over the age of 50 should eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  One common complaint made by parents is their child simply refuses to eat vegetables.   Here are a few tips for getting your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables without breaking your food budget.

  • keep fruits and vegetables ready for serving - Keep a fruit bowl on the table to encourage your kid(s) to help themselves.  Pre-cut cucumber, carrots, celery, sweet peppers and even cauliflower and broccoli, then keep in the refrigerator for convenient snacking.
  • variety - Offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables but buy only the quantity you will use within five to seven days.  It is better to buy less and use them up rather than the fruit or vegetable becoming spoiled before you can use it.  For example, with just the two of us most days, I buy two or three each of apples, bananas and then in add a couple of other fruits like plums or pears depending what is on sale.  That way we don't get bored eating the same fruits all the time.  Be sure to unit price when buying produce.  Recently, a 3 lb bag of whole carrots is less expensive than a 2 lb bag of ready to use baby carrots.
  • raw verses cooked - Quite often the problem in getting kids to eat vegetables is a textural one.  For example, your kids may prefer steamed potato pieces or baked potatoes but refuse to eat mashed potatoes.  Use different cooking methods in addition to raw.  Raw vegetables is the frugal choice but certain cooking methods are less expensive than others.  For example, steaming vegetables is less expensive than boiling them and there is less nutrition lost with steaming.  Avoid over cooking vegetables. 
  • use fruits and vegetables as an ingredient -  Shredded vegetables can easily be used in meat loaf and meatballs, quick breads (eg. zucchini loaf) and muffins, yeast breads and even cakes.  Substitute applesauce for the fat in baked goods for a low fat, healthier version.  If you make your own pasta, add vegetables or vegetable powder to the dough.  Buy or make plain yogurt then stir in fresh fruit or use the yogurt as a healthy dipping sauce for fruits and vegetables.
  • whole fruits and vegetables verses juices - In general whole fruits and vegetables are a better choice than fruit or vegetable juices that may contain colour, artificial flavours, preservatives, salt and sugar.  Whole fruits and vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber that help exercise facial muscles.  Homemade juice can be easily made using a juicer or steam juicer.  Take advantage of produce sales and in season produce to make your own juices.  If buying fruit juices, frozen concentrated juices are less expensive per ml or ounce than canned or bottled juices.  Avoid buying expensive single serving juices.  Use a reusable water bottle filled with juice for lunches or traveling if desired rather than single serving juice boxes, cans or bottles.
  • know what a serving size is - Fruits and vegetables are available in different sizes.  For example, apples may be small, medium or large.   The serving size for an apple is medium, so save a bit of money by buying medium rather than large apples.  The serving size for vegetables other than leafy greens is a half cup and leafy greens is one cup.  The serving size for dried fruits is a quarter of a cup while the serving size for fruits like grapes and cherries is 20 pieces.  Many folks eat more than a half a cup of vegetables as part of their evening and while there is nothing wrong with eating extra, you can save money by reducing the serving to closer to the recommended serving size.
  • set a good example -  Kids love to mimic adults so if Mom says she hates broccoli chances are good the kids won't even try broccoli if offered.   If Mom and Dad don't eat fruits and vegetables the kids are less likely to eat them as well.   Involve your kids in the choice of fruit or vegetable, shopping for produce, and meal prep.  All of these activities offer wonderful learning moments.  I don't believe in forcing a child to finish everything on their plate or making them eat a particular food they don't like.  This type of negative reinforcement can result in life long dietary issues.  At the same time, I don't offer a substitute.  If the meal is meat, potatoes, carrots and salad, a healthy child is not going to be harmed if they don't eat the carrots but it doesn't mean a piece of fruit can be substituted for the carrots.  Let kids serve themselves at the dinner table whenever possible.  Surprisingly, when they can control the amount of fruits and vegetables they can put on their plate, they will actually choose more.  It's the broad picture that is most important and the food guidelines are just that.  There needs to be room to be flexible to account for individual tastes and preferences. 

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