Kids are notoriously tough customers. One day, they’re eating broccoli, even calling it ‘little trees.’ The next day, the only green thing they’re craving is a sour apple Jolly Rancher. If you’re feeding kids day in and day out, you’ve got to be flexible in your way of thinking about vegetables. The key is to keep giving kids chances to try—and maybe even like—leafy lettuce, crunchy carrots and cool cucumbers.

The Name Game...

Research by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab has shown that menu names have a huge impact on whether or not kids will choose veggies. “When you name carrots ‘X-Ray Vision Carrots,’ that can double the consumption of carrots,” says Adam Brumberg, deputy director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Stealth Health is A-OK...

Some eschew ‘stealth health,’ preferring to get kids educated on turnips and carrots in their whole form, rather than pureed in a sweet muffin. But when it comes down to it, “I don’t mind a little ‘stealth health.’ As the parent of a 5 year old, I say, sometimes nutrition doesn’t have to be about complete honesty!” says Lisa Feldman, director of culinary services at Sodexo’s schools division. Sneaking pureed white beans into a base for dressings and dips is one of her best ideas.

Granny’s Garden Wisdom...

It’s tried and true: Kids are more likely to eat vegetables when they have gotten their hands dirty, planted the seeds and then picked that pepper themselves.

A multi-generational program in Wheeling, WV, brings together children ages 4-6 from a local daycare with the Sisters of St. Joseph retirement community. They garden with the culinary team of Cura Hospitality, working together to pick fresh produce to make a salad lunch. Some of the tomatoes and peppers go into Sister Rosalie’s famous spaghetti sauce, which is canned for a huge community spaghetti dinner in the fall.

When different generations garden together, it has a positive impact for everyone.

Smooth Moves...
“Pairing veggies in smoothies with ‘friendly fruits’ kids already have tasted, like strawberry, blueberry or peach really makes it easier for kids to love,” says Kathy Patalsky, author of the new book 365 Vegan Smoothies. And making use of the ‘cool name’ technique, a smoothie like the Green Monster will get kids talking—and barely noticing the kale.

“One method to get children interested in veggie smoothies is to name the brightly colored smoothies such as calling a green smoothie with kale or spinach the Green Hulk Smoothie, or an orange smoothie with carrots the Orange Monster Smoothie. This makes the meal fun for children and they are more likely to accept it," says Holly Michaels of Blendtec.

The Green Monster Smoothie
YIELD: 4 servings

12 fl. oz. orange juice
1 apple, cored and quartered
½ banana
1 cup kale
1 cup frozen mango
1 cup ice

Add ingredients in order listed to the blender, secure lid, and blend until smooth.

Photo and recipe: Holly Michaels/Blendtec