Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley’s book The Art of Eating Well has a cult following among health conscious parents, with its emphasis on nutritious, natural foods. In the first of our two part series, Jasmine shares her experience of tackling a vegetable dodger.
If a child is anti-greens, what on earth do you do?
My best friend Sjaniel moved over from South Africa three years ago with her husband and son and we all live together. We have a similar ethos when it comes to food but when they arrived, her son Jaden (aged 4 at the time) wouldn’t eat any vegetables, we almost wondered if he was allergic. You couldn’t even hide a pea in his food. He was a peanut butter and toast boy.
I think we all know a child like that. How did you get around it?
By involving him. We would talk about people or characters he admired, and ask, ‘What do you think the Incredible Hulk eats?’ And we used his obsession with dinosaurs to start a conversation about plant-eating and meat-eating dinosaurs, which helped to involve him.
Was that enough?
The turning point was chocolate. We made chocolate avocado mousse together. Visually it looked like chocolate and the texture was like mousse, so to it almost didn’t matter to him that avocado was the main ingredient and that got him over the hill.
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So the key is to get them involved?
Make the experience really fun for them. If you go to the supermarket, let them touch and squeeze, and then select the ingredients themselves, that will involve them in the process. Find stories that feature someone eating well, slurping soup maybe. Role models are crucial, and luckily these days it’s cool to look after yourself. When I was at school it was considered fussy to eat well, but now it’s normal.
So, short of stealth veg, how do we up the good stuff without a battle?
If you need to put more fruit, honey, ketchup or cheese on top to make the food go down initially, then do it. Use vegetables as a vehicle, like carrot sticks for a rich, creamy cheese dip. As you build up, keep talking about what they are eating to make them less resistant or fearful. Saying ‘it’s great for your brain,’ or ‘great for your football legs’, will help them understand why they are eating well, and that changes everything. If you’re simply ‘not allowed’ something you will crave it and are more likely to binge when you get it.
So a last word for parents on the brink of defeat?
I’m not one yet so I don’t know for sure – but I would say don’t give up hope there’s no such thing as a lost cause. It’s about slowly reprogramming taste buds, and it’s not an easy switch but it happens.
Role models and situations can change everything so find someone they look up to and have them cook them a meal to see if they are more receptive. And get over your own fear of nutritious, real fats! If you cover their broccoli in butter, roast sprouts in coconut oil or roast a chicken and soak the vegetables in the juices – the fat will make the vegetables more tasty, as well as making the meal more satisfying. Good saturated fats are vital for brain development, hormone health and growth as well as providing a sustainable form of energy. It also aids absorption of all the great fat soluble vitamins that are present in the veg. Just be sure that the fat you choose is unprocessed – no margarine or vegetable oils!
Three child friendly Hemsley + Hemsley vegetable recipes?
Broccoli fritters: High in vitamin C, broccoli is a health hero.
Courgetti with red pesto: Courgettes are versatile, affordable and easy to get hold of, sprialised into ribbons and topped with fresh pesto.
Pumpkin pie: Pumpkin flesh is loaded with vitamin A for an immune boost.
But, most importantly, with every dish make sure they are involved in the cooking.
LIKE THIS? Get more from H+H now: read Jasmine talking about breaking bad habits and encouraging healthy choices and discover their recipe for a perfect family picnic.