Looking for ways to get your kids to eat more vegetables? We took up the 52 New Foods Challenge to introduce one new fruit or vegetable a week to vary our children’s diet. Each month we share some ideas, tips and recipes to help you move beyond carrots and peas. This month, avocado.
I am pretty sure I never ate an avocado until I was at least 26. But, like humous and sushi, avocados now fall squarely into that category of formerly ‘exotic’ foods that our kids not only readily recognise but have firm opinions on.
Avocado is a marmite food where kids are concerned. For every one who willingly shovels it in straight from the skin, you’ll know two whose faces contort in disgust at being presented with the ‘green slimy stuff’.
Winning the war on fruit and vegetables with kids is certainly a question of picking your battles. But as far as edible plant life goes, this one is worth a few skirmishes at least: despite being a fruit, avocados deliver a hefty dose of growth and brain-supporting fats alongside all the vitamin and mineral goodness and a small amount delivers a big nutrient hit compared to less calorie dense fruit and vegetables – perfect for smaller appetites.
Plus, unlike other nutrient rich foods that kids love to hate, such as broccoli and cabbage, they are actually relatively mild in flavour and versatile enough to use in traditionally child-friendly recipes (such as ice cream and chocolate puddings), allowing kids to get onboard with them in principle before introducing them to their plates in their raw, unadulterated form.
Jump straight to recipe ideas or read on for our tips on buying and storing avocado, and a little more on why its a great thing to be on your child’s plate.Buying: There are several varieties of avocado available but the brown wrinkly-skinned Hass is generally considered the best for flavour and texture. Like pears and apricots, avocados have the annoying habit of being perfectly ripe for what seems like 25 minutes – go too early and you have a rock solid, tasteless soap substance… too late and it’s a brown, sludgy mess.
Many supermarkets sell ‘ready ripe’ avocados (at a premium) but even these can be quite hit and miss, and you will invariably find brown patches where earlier shoppers have had a good poke and squeeze of them.
The best, and cheapest, option is to buy them hard and let them ripen at home. You can tell if they are ready by giving them a gentle push at the base – they should give slightly but not feel soft. If you need to speed the process along pop them in a paper bag overnight with a ripe banana. Once ripe, store in the fridge.Season: Avocados found in the UK are imported (predominantly from South Africa and Chile) and are therefore available year-round. If you are conscious of food airmiles, Spanish imports are increasingly available during the UK summer months. Why: Long regarded as one of the superfood family, avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fats (important for development of the central nervous system and brain) as well as fibre, minerals (they are particularly rich in potassium and iron), vitamins and phytonutrients.
Avocado for Kids – Recipe Ideas:
- Avocado toast (surely 2014’s most Instagrammed food) is an easy way to introduce avocado to kids but, if they need a little persuasion, mashing it with banana is a good compromise and works as a toast topper or sandwich filling.
- The retro ‘ants on a log‘ snack has been making a comeback recently. Usually made with nut butter or cream cheese (like this Martha Stewart version), it also works well with mashed avocado as an alternative filling.
- Using avocado in chopped salads and salsas allows kids to decide how much of a new thing to try as well as allowing them to use familiar foods as a building block to new ones. As a savoury fruit, avocado unsurprisingly pairs well with both fruits and veg: a salsa made with tomatoes, spring onions and lime juice follows the more traditional Mexican route (great with grilled chicken or fish) or try adding it to strawberries and mango as a yoghurt topping. Offering avocado up as an topping option for a DIY taco tea is a regular child-pleaser too.
- Have a go at making your own sushi rolls. It isn’t as hard as it looks, particularly after a few trial runs and nobody at home is going to be marking your creations out of 10 anyway. Kids really enjoy getting involved and the sugary saltiness of the seaweed and the seasoned sushi rice is surprisingly popular with lots of children. Avocado and brown rice rolls are a good place to start, particularly if you don’t have a trustworthy purveyor of sushi grade fish nearby (or if raw fish is a bridge too far for your kids). This short grain brown rice from Sous Chef is brilliantly sticky and makes great risotto too. YouTube has endless tutorials if you want some guidance or check out this brilliant post from Minimalist Baker on how to roll great sushi without a special sushi mat (spoiler: use a towel).
- Avocado makes a great addition to smoothies, making them creamy and bolstering them with more fibre and some good fats to keep them full up. BBC Good Food has a popular strawberry and avocado version, which helps disguise some of the green goodness for first timers.
And if you are looking for something on the sweeter side:
- Jasmine Hemsley credited this avocado chocolate mousse as the stepping stone for getting her best friend’s 4 year-old vegetable dodger to learn to love vegetables. A quick trip onto Pinterest will also lead you to endless variations as well as cheesecakes and key lime pie made with it.
- The creamy texture of avocado makes for great ice cream. This avocado and lime version from Toddler Chef (and authority on all things picky-eater related) Fiona Faulkner is great. She has even served it sprinkled with pistachio and lime zest at parties for grown ups too.
- And continuing the cold theme: avocado popsicles are slowly taking over the blogosphere too, with good reason. Try these avocado and banana ones from Cupcakes and Kale Chips or steal some paper espresso cups from your nearest coffee shop and whizz up these Superhealthy Ice Pops (with avocado and pear) from Ireland’s healthy eating queen (and mother of two), Susan Jane White.
Do your kids love avocado? Share your favourite recipe ideas and tips with our readers below.Read all about the 52 New Foods Challenge here or read more in our 5 A Day series: Kale, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Pak Choi or Blueberries.
For more ideas and inspiration for family-friendly vegetables, check out our 52 New Foods board on Pinterest.Kate Douglas-Hamilton is Mr Fox co-founder. A recovering lawyer, she now spends most of her time staring at a screen and occasionally writing about learning to love eating plants on her blog The Buckwheat Adventure. She has one son, aged 3. Find her on Instagram @thebuckwheatadventure and on Twitter @katedh.