July 25, 2009

Kids Won't Eat Veggies? Green Juice to the Rescue

March 2008

As a baby, my son ate his pureed peas like a champ, but as he got older he began to reject all but the most carefully disguised fruits and vegetables. It wasn't always the taste, as most people assume it is with picky little eaters; it was often the texture that made him balk at the dinner table.

I followed the advice of the experts and placed the scorned veggies on his plate anyway. The pros assured me it would take time, but eventually my son would develop a liking for his vegetables.

Not only did that not happen, but soon my son's aversion grew so strong he flat out refused to even lick a slice of apple, melon, pineapple, you name it. No amount of cajoling or bribing got compliance. He literally gagged if an uninvited vegetable made it past his lips. After one too many ruined meals, I made sure to pick out the chunks of tomato in the spaghetti and the wedges of zucchini in his linguine. Through much trial and error, I found a few items of the grown variety that he would eat. But beans, bananas and applesauce leave wide gaps in the nutrition spectrum.

Enter Green Juice.

In desperation, I purchased a good quality single auger masticating juicer, the kind with what looks like a big screw that forces the vegetables and fruit against a metal screen until the pulp is separated from the juice. Juice drains out one hole and pulp is pooped out another, into two separate containers. I made a big production out of the purchase and took my son to the grocery store to help pick some "starter" fruits and vegetables. When we got home, I let him stand on a chair at the counter, and with close supervision, guided him in feeding the sliced apples, pears and carrots into the juicer. He helped me rinse off all the juicer's parts afterwards, thrilled to have been included in this fun and exciting activity. I mixed the resulting juice half and half with commercial apple juice and held my breath as he gave it a try.

I needn't have worried: he was proud to drink the juice he'd made. I put the pulp into banana bread and because it was ground so fine he didn't know the difference. Over time, we tried adding a variety of fruits and vegetables in different combinations. My son drank each and every concoction, and asked for more. Now when we go to the grocery store, he will remind me to get a bunch of kale or ask if we have enough carrots. To be honest, he nags me to make green juice he adores the process so much! The key is allowing him to stuff those fruits and vegetables into the juicer.

We don't follow recipes, but there are recipe books out there. In order to get the most out of our juicing experience, I did find a wonderful book, though. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden not only pinpoints the best foods, the author warns you about foods most likely to be contaminated by pesticides. For instance, we spend a little more for organic apples so we don't have to peel them before juicing. That way we get the benefit of the vitamins, minerals and fiber in the peel, without the chemicals.

When I'm feeling lazy, I also enlist my son's help in making smoothies in the blender. No veggies there, but he gets the fiber from the whole frozen fruit, and he drinks it so fast he gets an "ice cream" headache.

My son still won't eat his peas and he still gags at the distinctive crunch of a stray onion. But with green juice, I know he's not only getting the nutrition he needs, he's also developing a taste for the grassy-green flavors most kids shun.

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