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How to Feed Your Kids More Dark, Leafy Vegetables

When it comes to nutrient-dense food, you probably won’t find anything that beats dark, leafy vegetables. Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals (like potassium, folate, vitamins A, C, and K), dark green veggies are fibre-rich and great for helping our guts stay healthy. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that most greens are quite bitter. Even worse, most kids are more sensitive to bitterness than most adults. If we’re being completely honest, even most adults don’t find dark, leafy vegetables appealing at all. Unless, that is, you’re one of those people who were trained well by their parents to appreciate a lot of flavours from a young age. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to make dark green leaves yummy and appealing, even to kids, all while preserving their nutritious goodness. Here’s how: Make chips. Kids love eating anything small, crisp, and easy to pick up with their hands. You can play to this tendency by turning dark, leafy vegetables into chips. Theoretically, any leafy green should work, but hardy types like mustard, chard, collard greens, and of course, kale, work best. Kale chips are cheesy and crisp, and provide more flavour dimensions than the usual potato chips (not to mention healthier) - Recipe will be posted soon! Sauté/stir fry. The basic method, based on Mediterranean cuisine, is by stir frying onions, then garlic, then tomatoes. Drop in the chopped or shredded greens, and toss them around for a minute or two until they’re just starting to wilt (the leaves will keep cooking after you take them off the heat). This is a great side for grilled chicken, fish, and pork (or almost any protein, for that matter). You can also add bits of organic beef, lamb or chicken to the stir fry, thereby turning it into a main dish, which you can then serve over hot rice or noodles. Chili, mushrooms, sesame oil, leeks, lemon, and lime work well, too. Stir into pasta. Baby spinach works extremely well when mixed with bolognese: The tomatoes, ground meat, and strong herbs make for a rich sauce which won’t be overwhelmed by dark, leafy vegetables. If all you have on hand are mature leaves, you can roll them up and chop them into ribbons on your cutting board before stirring into the sauce. If you’re making meatballs to go with the sauce, you can pulse the leaves in a food processor, then mix them with the meatballs. Pesto? Go right ahead and dump a handful of leaves with the nuts and olive oil. Ribbonized leaves work well with rich and creamy carbonara, too. Make a frittata. Stir fry onions, garlic, mushrooms, and shredded leaves in a cast-iron pan. Pour eggs over (beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper), stir to mix a little, then pop into 180C preheated oven for 30 minutes. That’s a basic recipe. Variations can include tomatoes, bacon, cheese, and/or basil. You can pour them into muffin tins to make breakfast muffins. You can add practically any vegetables to frittatas Make fritters. As parents, there are a few rules you need to live by. Two of those should be, “Kids will eat anything they can pick up with their hands,” and “Anything can be made into a fritter.” Let that sink in for a minute, and realize just how much easier feeding your kids have become. You can basically take any vegetable (carrots, potatoes, and zucchini are the most popular), whiz them in a food processor, squeeze out the water, add eggs and a bit of flour (gluten-free, if you wish), and pan-fry. You can even bake them in the oven if you want less oil! Feel free to add any kind of dark, leafy vegetables you want — the kids will gobble them up. Roll them up. Making wraps? Just add greens. The beautiful thing is that not only will the flavours of a chicken or beef wrap be enhanced and balanced by the richness of the dark, leafy vegetables; your kids won’t even know they’re in there, so there’s less chance of rejection. I hope you get some great ideas for your littles ones from this post.

Yours in health, Maria Lucey, Nutritionist and Health coach 0438 112 050

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