Deceptively Delicious…The Mom Edition
Who remembers when Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious hit the market? It was 2008, I had two toddlers, and this book was the talk of every mommy circle. There was finally a way to get our kids to eat fruits and vegetables without a struggle- this cookbook taught us how to sneak pureed carrots and spinach into brownies and squash into macaroni and cheese. And the kids would never know.
It all seemed so easy.
But even at the time, I had my reservations about this method. I had been working hard to introduce fruits and vegetables into my kids’ diets the old- fashioned way: consistently and out in the open.
We had a garden, and my kids knew how vegetables were grown. I wanted them to see the colors on their plate and understand the importance of choosing fruits and vegetables at meal and snack times.
And it worked!
As my kids got older, they became accustomed to steamed broccoli and raw carrots. I felt so victorious in this department, until we were eating dinner one night and my daughter asked if I wanted broccoli on my plate. I panicked. I didn’t want her to see me turning down a vegetable, but I honestly don’t love steamed broccoli, and just wanted to eat my pizza and be left alone. I took some to be polite, and put it on my husband’s plate when the kids had left the table.
Wait. What? Aren’t you a dietitian? Yep. Thanks for noticing.
I had been so focused on my kids’ fruit and vegetable intake, that I’d forgotten about my own health and need for nutrient-dense foods. This was my wake-up call, and the minute I realized that I needed to take a serious look at my own food choices. I needed Jessica Seinfeld’s book more than my kids did- how about some zucchini pureed and hidden in my pizza crust so I won’t even know it’s there??
Make it a Game
No, not like the airplane when you want your baby to open wide; this is a numbers game. I know adults should be eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, which contributes to fiber intake and loads us up with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For me, a fun way to shoot for this goal is to make a game out of it. This means fruit and probably more than one vegetable at each meal. I aim for more veggies than fruit, so I have a steadier blood sugar rise, but we definitely need both. I keep track in my planner, and see if I hit my mark at the end of the day.
What happens when I play this game?
- My fiber intake is way up, which makes me feel full and satisfied all day long. I notice that I’m not rummaging through the pantry looking for cheesy chips.
- I feel good!! No, really! I notice a big difference when I’m fueling my body with tons of fruit and veggies.
- My taste buds change. While I still enjoy a piece (or two) or dark chocolate after meals, a lot of other junk food is naturally crowded out off of my plate. When you get used to eating naturally sweet foods like berries, artificially flavored foods start to taste funny.
What Do I Even Like?
Remember Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride? She didn’t even know how she liked her eggs because she always ate them the way her current boyfriend preferred. That’s how I felt as a mom trying to get young kids to eat vegetables. When I learned my kids’ preferences and the vegetables they would eat without protest, those became our family staples.
But you know what?
I don’t like plain steamed broccoli and raw carrots make my ears itch (oral allergy syndrome is a real thing, yo). What I’m saying is that it was worth it to experiment and discover how I liked to eat vegetables.
Here’s what I found:
- Roasted broccoli is the bomb.com (Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook at 425 degrees F until it barely starts to blacken. Pull it out of the oven and eat immediately. I COULD EAT THIS ALL DAY!
- Breakfast smoothies are the easiest way to start the day on the right foot. I throw in spinach (fresh, stored in freezer), and ¼ cup of either frozen blueberries, mixed berries or banana. Blended with peanut butter for some healthy fat, almond milk, and protein powder, I’m satisfied and full for hours.
- A big batch of Roasted Vegetable Soup portioned into individual containers saves me from a trip to Chick-Fil-A. No, really. I don’t meal prep every weekend, but occasionally when I have time, I’ll make a big batch of soup like this:
Sauté carrots, onion, and celery in a bit of olive oil. Then add a container of chicken bone broth or stock. Let that boil, then simmer for 15 min. Meanwhile, grab frozen, pre-cut veggies from Costco (butternut squash and tri-color cauliflower) and roast them up the same way as the broccoli. When they are cooked, slide them into the soup pot along with 2 cans of cannellini beans (or any beans). Stir this all up and ladle into individual soup bowls with lids (like Corning Ware or Pyrex).
I like to add ½ an avocado to the soup right before serving. This is so delicious and knowing I have this in the freezer for busy nights when I don’t feel like cooking allows me to keep up healthy eating habits!
- My grandma used to make granola and each batch was different depending on what she had on hand. I was always intimidated by making my own version until I found this recipe. It’s so easy. And I know what’s in it. And it tastes WAY better than box granola from the store. I keep a ¼ cup measuring scoop attached to the granola canister for portion control, and mix it with Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries and blueberries. Delicious!
- For snacks, I’ve discovered that I like cucumbers, especially the mini Persian variety, sliced and dipped in hummus. Apple slices dipped in peanut butter or almond butter are a great snack after a workout. I found that even though I really want to like raw bell peppers for snacks, I don’t like them and don’t choose them even when they are in the fridge. I love them sautéed for fajitas, though!
- Avocados on absolutely everything. Thankyouverymuch.
Consistency, Not Perfection
Upping fruits and vegetable in our diets takes some effort in planning meals and shopping, but also for finding out what we actually like! To me, it matters how food tastes because that makes the difference in whether I reach for that food in stressful times or when I’m tired.
The more you consistently work vegetables into your meals and snacks, the more it will just become habit. Just like the bowl-of-ice-cream-after-dinner was a habit.
So, while there was a time when I would have chosen Jessica Seinfeld’s sneaky puree tricks for myself instead of eating sad steamed broccoli, that would have robbed me of seeing and tasting the vibrant colors and textures that I’ve taught my kids to look for on their plates. And you better believe I’m counting wine as a fruit serving.