Two Dietitians Reveal How They Get Their Kids to Love Veggies
Melissa Halas, CEO of SuperKids Nutrition, interviews Andie Schwartz.
"They literally ask for it now; they'll say, 'can I have broccoli?' It's not something I have to hide or negotiate with them. I mean, they literally request it!" - Andie Schwartz, M.Ed, RD, Nutrition & Fitness Expert
Melissa Halas: Andie, I know how much you love incorporating plant foods into your own diet. So now, I am curious, what is your favorite side dish, or meal, that your family loves that also helps you meet that increased plant intake approach to eating?
Andie Schwartz: So my kids are seven and eight. I remember working in the hospital as a pediatric dietitian and hearing parents' struggles with getting their kids to accept vegetables as part of their daily diet. I just tried different recipes with my kids, and this one really stuck - it is just plain, roasted broccoli. It's nothing fancy or anything that requires more than a sheet pan, some olive oil, and a little bit of salt and pepper.
Melissa Halas: Yes my daughter asks for it too. And I’m not a broccoli lover unless it’s cooked this way.
The trick with roasting broccoli is to break it up into tiny pieces and let the kids use a silicone brush to paint it lightly with oil. Then, every piece gets evenly caramelized, and you can turn a broccoli hater into a broccoli lover!
Protein can even add up if you're eating a good portion size! Sometimes we don't realize that even vegetables and grains have protein that can contribute to your daily needs. Once you discover how they love a specific veggie or grain cooked, try the same preparation with a similar food. Getting the kids involved increases the likelihood of them trying and liking the food!
When cooking with your kids, remember:
Cook on a day you have more time, so you’re not rushed. Be prepared for a bigger mess, and remind yourself to be patient with their learning process.
Start small with a side dish or snack that includes a fiber-filled option, like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or beans! Most kids don’t meet their fiber needs. They may only have the patience or interest to participate for half the time it takes to complete a simple recipe.
Through your actions and words, let them know you enjoy cooking together and making foods that taste yummy and are good for your body.
Andie Schwartz: Absolutely. I'm glad you brought up getting the kids involved in the cooking. I think that's what I tried to do differently, instead of how I grew up eating veggies, which was typically frozen over steamed vegetables. Although my mom was a good cook, sometimes, when it came to vegetable preparation, she didn't expand the different cooking methods. I didn't have that taste development with vegetables as early on in life. I really wanted to get that right with my own children.
The caramelization and that healthy fat in the oil make all the difference in the vegetable preferences.
Melissa Halas: Absolutely! And nutrition is just half the equation, our bodies are made to move everyday. So, I want to include a question about your adorable kids! I'm always looking at your Facebook and Instagram posts of them being active, and I can see their genuine love for sports and fitness at a young age. So, I would love a tip that you can share, whether it's how you motivate them or model for them to create this love for activity.
Andie Schwartz: I'm glad you used the word "modeling" because I believe that our kids are like sponges. There's always that nature versus nurture debate, and I think time and time again, we find that it's really both. Certain people tend to be more active, but I don't think it's just a tendency. I think it's more of a practice of seeing, doing, and growing up with that type of lifestyle. As a pediatric dietitian, I see many kids not being active enough or quickly falling out of a sport. I tried to instill a variety of activities in my family to discover what they love and then specialize in that. Since they're only eight and seven, they haven’t specialized in one thing. If they got burnt out or decided that they wouldn't continue with that particular sport, they would have another activity to participate in. I try to make them very well-rounded and give them many social and athletic opportunities. We'll find out what actually sticks in a couple of years. Maybe they'll even become three-sport athletes with different sports every year, which would be fun.
I think it's vital that kids have the fun part of it too, and are not pushed too hard, too early, or forced to like something their parents liked. Instead, they can choose what really speaks to their heart and talents.
I just love seeing them try all these new things. For example, we did outdoor swimming the last couple of years, but seeing them now in indoor swimming is such a nice addition. Sometimes you have to give them a little shove to start things because new things are hard. As parents, though, we need to provide opportunities and then let them choose where they continue.
Melissa Halas: If you look at many successful, competitive athletes, they'll say that in the beginning, their parents had to give them a little push. I remember that with my own daughter; she didn't want to try dance, and I told her to just try three classes, and it turned out she loved it, but it's about finding that balance not just with the foods you eat, but also fitness. I am so thrilled you're part of MyMenu. I'm so inspired by your competitive sports personality. It's one of the things that draws me to you. I love how you share information so readily, and it's really inspiring to see you compete. I've even seen a couple photos of your kids cheering for you at events.
Andie Schwartz: Thank you, Melissa. I love having them there! It's not a race, honestly, and I say this genuinely. What motivates me to continue is not just to maintain my health and my goals of being a lifelong athlete but to have that lifestyle and have my family together. So I watch and cheer them on, and they come to watch and cheer me on. I think that it's so important that it goes through everyone in the family, not just the mom and dad cheering on the kid, but the kids cheering on the parents too.
Melissa Halas: I love this! We need more parents to get their kids involved in healthy eating and involved in sports and fitness. Nutrition and physical activity support a lifelong journey toward good health. So where can people find you? Do you have a private practice in New Jersey? Tell us your website and your Instagram handle. I'm sure so many people will be inspired to learn more about you through MyMenu, but they can also visit your site.
Andie Schwartz: Well, thank you again for all your kind words. The website is actually an acronym for my name, Andy Bernard Schwartz. So it's actually "ABS" and then "nutrition and fitness.com." So it's not just the physical "abs," but is actually my name, so "Absnutritionandfitness.com." It's the same for my IG and Facebook handle too.
Melissa Halas: Thank you, Andie! I'm just really thankful. It's been fantastic to hear and to experience you. You're an amazing mom, dietitian, and athlete.
On MyMenu, we will have more of Andie's tips, recipes, inspiration, and passion. So, that's where the get-inspired feature is on my menu.