Our two boys each nursed for two years, but we started them on solids at about five months of age.
Their first foods were porridges made with cereal grains — barley, brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa. A few months later we started adding one blended vegetable at a time to their porridges.
Between eight and ten months of age, we started introducing finger foods. It was at that age that both boys (who are almost three years apart) started saying no to vegetables. If we pushed, they made gagging sounds and eventually would make themselves throw up.
Since we have always been aware of the importance of eating plenty of vegetables from an early age, I learned how to creatively hide veggies in other foods they liked. For example, when I made bread I used a cup of blended vegetable soup in the mix instead of water. When I made crepes, I blended raw carrots, spinach or celery along with the flour and water.
I got a box of Juice Plus capsules, pure dehydrated vegetables and fruit, from my friend Julie, and added them to every single meal I prepared, even to their home made juices or shakes. Check out Julie’s website here.
All these tricks helped, but it was still very important to us to teach our children to eat vegetables without having to enter into lunch or dinnertime wars. It was as important to us, that the meals we shared as a family were filled with conversation, laughter and enjoyment, and not with battles of wills. We knew that there was no point in trying to force them to eat their vegetables.
My husband and I met at a health food restaurant, where I took cooking lessons. At this restaurant I learned how to prepare vegetables in order to bring out the natural sugars they contain. I do not mean only sweet potatoes or sweet peas. In fact, most vegetables, when prepared only with minimal salt, turn out pretty sweet.
Carrots, celery, cabbage, and even onions can be sweet treats if you know the tricks. Preparing vegetables in this way helps control cravings for other sweets.
I set out to cook vegetables in their own vapors and juices to concentrate the flavors, and then proceeded to prepare flavorful blended soups for our family. I purposefully made the soups with only one vegetable at a time, so that the children would learn to differentiate between the distinctive flavors of each vegetable.
Knowing that there was a vegetable in the soup, the boys originally resisted, but soon learned to love the taste. I had noticed that the biggest issues they had were with the textures, rather than the flavor of foods.
Over time they got so used to the blended vegetable soups that they complained if I served a lunch or dinner that did not include soup.
One day we were out and about all day and had lunch and dinner out. As we were driving home that night, the boys asked if I would please make them some veggie soup when we got home, so that they could have it before bedtime.
These days, when I ask them to pick the menu for a special occasion lunch or dinner, including their own birthdays, the list always starts with veggie soup.
Once we had established that they loved vegetables in their soup, I started adding small pieces of the vegetables that they liked most in dishes that they were particularly fond of, like spaghetti or rissotto. As time went by those pieces increased in size to become chunks. The boys didn’t even think to complain.
Nowadays we get comments like the one in the headline: “Mama, you rocked these carrots!” and they get second servings.