Monday, May 23, 2011

The Veggie Challenge

By Paula Ould, Together Time parent

Farmer’s Market season is upon us. We often attend the Cambrian Farmer’s Market each Wednesday from May through September. It’s been a chance for us to get out of the house for dinner, meet friends for a picnic and to try new foods.

Last summer a friend of ours challenged many of us to “The Veggie Challenge.” She had read about it in a parenting magazine and thought it would be fun if many families rallied around and did the challenge together. I never could have imagined the impact it would make on my family. Up until The Veggie Challenge, my family’s veggie repertoire consisted mainly of peas, carrots and corn. On occasion, when I was feeling brave, I would throw in an artichoke, potato or zucchini or two. I didn’t like veggies as a kid (think canned peas here) thus they never entered into my routine as an adult. And I really didn’t like the battle that was caused between my parents and I about what I would eat and how much. For me, personally, it was one factor that lead to an eating disorder later in life which I really did not want to pass along to my three children.

So, what is the Veggie Challenge? Well, each of us parents tailored it to our individual families. The ultimate goal was to get kids to eat more of a variety of vegetables. Most of us used a two week system where our kids were encouraged to have a serving of veggies at lunch and dinner. At the end of the two weeks the kids had a reward as did a charity of their choice. My eldest daughter wanted to spend her money on books while my youngest daughter wanted Barbies. Both daughters wanted their charity money to be spent abroad for the soldiers who were fighting for our freedoms.

I used the Farmer’s Market as a tool for the kids to get involved with what they ate. Each week we would walk down the row, look at foods and guess what they would taste like. We discussed how each one could be cooked and how the cooking methods would change how they tasted. The girls (6 and 4 at the time) would each pick out a vegetable to eat in the following days. We tried broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts (from the grocery store), various types of potatoes, summer squash, kale, and many more. There were plenty of meals that were absolute flops for the entire family. However, almost one year later, our veggie menu has grown tremendously! Each of the girls will now frequently ask for bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, and asparagus. They no longer automatically turn their noses up to new foods, veggies or not. A wide variety of fish is now among our diet including salmon and catfish; both which are loved by many members of our family. And, on occasion when they do put up a fair amount of resistance, I remind them of last summer’s Veggie Challenge. They have come to love foods I never would have imagined to have as staples in my fridge.

We have yet to make it to the farmer’s market this season, but the girls continue to ask when we can go. My goal this year is to have my son, age 2, pick out veggies, and other foods, he would like to try. I need to continue to remind myself to place the importance of healthy choices for our family and to not be frustrated when they do put up a fight to not eat certain foods.