“Fritters are a great way to get veg-phobics to eat their vegetables,” says Beverly Hills Farmgirl blogger and mother of three, Dana Slatkin. Here, the vegetarian cooking expert offers tips for incorporating more vegetables into one’s diet and appealing to picky eaters.
- Make a weekly trip to the farmers’ market. Fall in love with what’s on the stands. There’s always something colorful and appealing, and always someone enthusiastic to tell you what to do with it.
- Don’t be ashamed to use frozen veggies, because if they save you time, you’ll be encouraged to eat more of them. Some of my favorites are organic artichoke hearts, which I love to deep-fry or roast. Frozen organic corn is a huge timesaver, for soups, for salads. Organic edamame I’ll use in hummus, stir-fries, or even in a protein-laden pesto.
- Roasting vegetables is so easy, it’s something everyone can do—just toss them with a little oil and salt and garlic and throw them in the oven. In half an hour you have delicious caramelized veggies—I think that’s pretty universally appealing.
- I’m a big fan of fried vegetables. That’s the way I got my kids to start loving many things. I make a light beer batter and fry little bits of vegetables, or cut them into French fry shapes, like broccoli stems or sticks of eggplant or zucchini. My kids’ favorite is deep-fried shiitake mushrooms. I like combining the salty “French fries” with a sweet or creamy dipping sauce, like a sweet curry sauce with tomatoes and tomato puree, coconut milk, onions, garlic and garam masala, or a delicious mock Thousand Island dressing with a veggie mayo, beets for color, dill pickles and a little tamari.
- It’s always nice to have a platter of veggies on the table with a nice dip. Even if you have to set one out every night and for weeks it just sits there untouched, eventually a picky eater is going to get curious and sample something. Especially if you can make a dip that appeals to them, like hummus or peanut sauce or even ranch dressing.
- Pureeing vegetables is a great way to sneak things in. Like mashed potatoes with kohlrabi or cauliflower, that can introduce newbies to more vegetal flavors without offending their palates.
- Beans get a bad rap, but they add a lot of flavor and protein and fiber to salads, pastas. If you’re making a curry, you could add chickpeas. If you're making a vegetable soup, add cannellinis. I’ve even made brownies with black beans. I’ve got a recipe on my website that I adapted from one of my favorite bloggers. They’re so creamy and delicious, you’d never know there were black beans in there.
- Fritters are a great way to get veg-phobics to eat their vegetables. I’ll grate some vegetables like zucchini in my food processor, maybe add some corn or peas, and some fresh herbs like fresh mint or chives, and then an egg or two, a tablespoon or two of whole-wheat flour, and a teaspoon of baking powder. And then, if you want, you can add Parmesan cheese. Or if you want it to be vegan, you can swap in a little miso paste for the Parmesan and use high-gluten flour instead of the egg to keep it all together. For a dipping sauce I’ll make yogurt-cucumber tzatziki or a maybe a tomato chutney.
- Repetition is key. I know from experience: My son who’s now 15 refused to eat anything green for 10 years. I just kept at it and kept presenting different vegetables for him to try. One day he just decided to try them. So don’t give up.
- I think the real key to getting people to enjoy vegetables more, both at home and in restaurants, is not to be preachy about it. On the contrary, when picky eaters are around enthusiastic eaters, it rubs off on them. If there’s a lot of positivity in the air, they’ll associate vegetables with something that’s enjoyable and delicious. Just be matter-of-fact about including them on the menu or in a dish. Take away the hard sell and they become much more appealing.