Wisdom from foodie, father and author of the Nelson series, Andrew Levins.
Hi! I’m Andrew Levins, father of two and writer of the Nelson series. The Nelson books (Pumpkins and Aliens and Broccoli and Spies) centre around Nelson Hunter, an eight year old kid who hates eating vegetables more than anything else in the universe. He successfully avoids them for his entire life until one night his grandma forces him to eat a bowl of pumpkin soup. Nelson passes out from the trauma but when he wakes up he has superpowers and learns that each vegetable gives him a different set of powers. Surely having super strength, invisibility and teleportation would make him love vegetables now, right? Wrong. Nelson still hates vegetables with every part of his body and his best friend Olive has to force them down his throat if she ever needs him to use his powers.
A lot of people ask me if the vegetable-hating Nelson is based on my own kids, Archie (7 years old) and Tilly (4 years old), but are then surprised to learn that it’s the opposite: Archie and Tilly love vegetables! You could put a plate of cucumbers and carrot sticks in the middle of a plate filled with cakes and chocolates and these little weirdos will always seek out the veggie sticks.
So if your child is more of a Nelson, here’s five tips I have for getting them to hate vegetables just a tiny bit less.
1. Put the same amount of love into vegetables that you do everything else on the plate.
This one is so important. Do you know the main reason kids hate broccoli so much? Because the most common way it’s served is boiled in water and thrown on a plate. Would you ever boil a piece of meat with the same level of disrespect? Kids think vegetables are gross because most of them are gross when you don’t cook them in anything. Stir fry some greens in soy and garlic. Roast them with spices. Dress them with lemon and olive oil. Or better yet…
2. Incorporate vegetables into your meal
Stop viewing vegetables as a healthy side dish and start cooking them into your dishes. Instead of serving a side salad with your pasta, cook the vegetables into your pasta. It’s so easy to sneak a bunch of veggies into a lasagne or bolognese sauce. Kids will be a lot less reluctant to try vegetables if they have no idea they’re eating them. Then once they’ve eaten your sneaky pasta a few times you can reveal that they’ve actually been eating vegetables THIS ENTIRE TIME!
3. Throw those weird plates that divide food into sections IN THE BIN
These plates encourage kids to separate their food into things they like and things they don’t before they even try it. It also makes it difficult for kids to experiment with combinations because there’s a literal wall between each element of their dinner. I’m not saying stir everything together and serve it to them in a trough, but knock down those walls and let those proteins and veggies get to know each other.
4. Vegetables make great snacks too
A really easy way to get kids to eat something they don’t like is to dip it in something they do like. A selection of veggie sticks (carrots, cucumbers, celery – pretty much every vegetable that starts with C) are a great vessel for hummus, guacamole or plain yoghurt. You could even get your kids to call their veggie sticks crudités which will make them sound very fancy indeed.
5. Grow your own vegetables
Maybe your kids will be more inclined to eat something that they created themselves? At the very least it will give them more of a connection to vegetables as they watch their seeds sprout and grow. A more convenient version of this is just letting kids cook with you. Start with something simple like homemade pizzas. Let your child make a face with various vegetable pieces and salami. Getting your children involved in what they eat gives them a better understanding of where food comes from, which generally makes them more open to trying new things.
BONUS TIP: Buy your kids the Nelson books!
I’m just saying, if they read a book where a boy gets superpowers from eating vegetables, they’ll definitely try eating vegetables at least once to see if they get superpowers too.
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