Presenting vegetables in a different way and involvement in growing them help to overcome picky eaters, writes Nadia Badarudin
I STILL remember the fuss and drama at my dinner table when I tried to get my two children to eat vegetables. Despite all the tips from friends and the Internet’s How to- advice, my children’s excuses were “veggies taste awful” and “carrots are for rabbits”.
Many parents have difficulties making children understand the nutritional benefits of vegetables.
But for an entrepreneurial couple from Selangor and a homemaker from Penang, it’s all about presenting vegetables in a different way and children’s involvement in growing them.
PASTA INSPIRED BY PICKY EATERS
Shah Alam-based entrepreneurs Ahmad Yusman Faris Mohammed Yusoff and his wife Noraida Mohd Razali have three kids, Danial, Darwish and Daffa (aged between three and seven).
Ahmad Yusman is a talented cook. His specialty is homemade spaghetti bolognaise from scratch. After leaving his job in 2013, he and his wife set up a small business selling pasta at a college in Cheras (where Noraida previously worked as a lecturer) and supplied the food to petrol stations which offer grab-to-go food convenience. The couple’s pasta was a hit.
In January 2017, they founded Eatalian Express, an online business selling homemade fresh vegetable pasta made from puree. Due to its taste and health benefits, their dried pasta is growing in popularity, particularly among the health-conscious and mothers who want to sneak vegetables into their kids’ meals.
The business idea came into the picture when the couple was finding a way to get their little boys – who are picky eaters – to eat vegetables.
“Since they love pasta, we checked out vegetable pasta on supermarket shelves. But most products used vegetable powder and artificial colouring, with few or no nutrients. There was also a lack of variety in shapes,” says Noraida.
“After extensive research, we found out that fresh vegetables can only be added to fresh pasta.
“That’s how we started to make our own fresh vegetable pasta using steamed and pureed vegetables,” adds Ahmad Yusman.
The couple travelled to Bologna, Italy – the pasta capital – in 2016 and took up a course in making pasta.
The colourful pasta by Eatalian Express is made with quality durum wheat semolina and vegetable purees from 10 vegetables, namely carrot, beetroot, cauliflower, red cabbage, green spinach, pumpkin, broccoli, purple carrot, sweet potato and tomato. The eggless pasta has no preservatives, salt or sugar and is available in various shapes like spiral (fusilli), elbow (macaroni), shell and star.
“Colours do matter when it comes to getting children to try new food like vegetables. The colours of our pasta are all natural colours of the vegetables.
“Our children love the pasta and in addition to the taste, it must be due to the colour, fun shapes and sizes,” says Noraida, adding that the pasta is dried to preserve it.
In addition to careful control of each stage of production, the company took it up a notch by going to the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute to analyse the nutritional benefits of its products.
The amount of dietary fibre is 15.35g per 100gm of the pasta, which is more than twice the amount of dietary fibre of regular, commercially manufactured pasta in the local market.
“But, most importantly, parents must make children understand why our body needs the nutritional benefits from the vegetables before we offer them,” says Noraida.
GROWING VEGGIES TOGETHER
For homemaker Yuziyana Yusop, 42, from Permatang Binjai, Penaga in Penang, her secret to getting children to love vegetables is by growing the greens together at home.
Yuziyana and her children, Adriana Safiyah Baharom,13, Audadi Safiyah, 9, Ahmad Lutfi Yusuf, 7, and Aidelia Safiyah, 6, have their own vegetable garden project at home which they started during the school holidays three years ago.
“We planted many edible plants at our garden, from curry leaves to Brazilian spinach. My children were excited at getting their hands dirty.
“Planting and tending to the vegetables helped them to appreciate what they eat. That’s how I educate them,” says Yuziyana who sells plant seedlings and nursery items online.
“My children are happy when it’s time for harvest. When they have harvested what they have planted, of course they will be excited to know the taste.”
Yuziyana has another way to turn her children into veggie lovers.
“My fishball and vegetable soup has more of the former. Chicken soup with vegetables has less meat and oversized vegetables.
“I try to add vegetables to any dishes where suitable. Most importantly, I eat with my children to make sure they eat the vegetables.
“All of my children love vegetables. Audadi likes to eat grilled brinjal with budu (fermented fish sauce) while Lutfi eats salads like snack, as if they are crackers,” she adds.
TIPS: MAKE IT FUN
EXPERTS say that the most important thing to do when it comes to encouraging kids to eat vegetables is to teach ourselves and our children to appreciate food. This can help the little ones to understand the benefits of food to our health.
1. Fresh is best
Explain to your children the goodness of natural and fresh food in a fun way. For example, teach them about food via doodles or a simple demonstration and encourage them to ask questions.
2. Grow plants together
Get your children to appreciate food by involving them in the process.
3. Go grocery shopping and cooking together
Take your children to the market and let them pick a vegetable with the colour they like best or one with a funny shape, for instance. Then, cook a meal together.
4. Eat together
Enjoy a meal together with your children. This is the best time to discuss what they are eating and the taste.
Source: Adapted from Huffington Post
TIPS: SNEAK IT IN
1. Hide vegetables in child-friendly recipes. For example, puree vegetables into spaghetti sauce or grate sweet potatoes into cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, brownies or puddings. When making meat-based pasta sauce, add more mushrooms as their meaty texture is similar to ground beef. Sneak vegetables into pizza.
2. Stir corns into ice-cream.
3. Make a smoothie with pumpkin, carrot, spinach or cucumber.
4. Make healthy and crispy vegetable chips from kale and sweet potato.
5. Let kids play with food - cut carrots, cucumber and other colourful vegetables into bite-sized pieces and present them in a cute and enticing food platter. Serve with cheesy dip.