In this fast-food age, where brightly-coloured pizzas and luscious looking burgers are the order of the day, do plain, boring but healthy veggies and staples really stand a chance? It is tempting for many parents to feed their children, especially the picky ones, that yummy looking chocolate chip cookie or the oil-laden pakoda, in the hope that their little ones will be getting some amount of nutrition. But the danger lies in this becoming a norm and children getting used to avoiding ‘boring’ foods.
There is research which suggests that the eye-catching way in which fast food is packaged and marketed is what draws children to it in the first place. So, why not try this trick at home? We all know that children prefer things that are dressed up and fancy looking. Give them a plain sandwich and chances are you will get that bored look that all parents dread. But cut them in animal shapes and put smileys on them, and the humble sandwich is gobbled up in a single sweep.
With just a few changes in the way some ingredients are cooked and presented, you can turn a mundane dish into a fascinating one. Here is our list of 'boring' foods and tips to make them amazing --
1. Red rice
There are not many people who are used to the nutty flavour and chewiness of the red rice. Even though it is become a sudden favourite in some restaurants, children will more often than not, turn up their nose on this highly nutritious food. Red rice gets its red colour due to anthocyanins and is high in fibre, Vitamin B6 and antioxidants. It is staple in some regions of Kerala and coastal Karnataka, apart from being consumed in Himalayan regions such as Tibet and Bhutan.
Tip to make it Interesting: Use it to make burger patty
Which kid does not like burgers? But it does not have to be the oil-laden, zero nutrition ones that children fawn over at fast food joints. All you have to do is mash a cup of boiled red rice, mix in some spices and coriander leaves, add grated carrots, mashed potato, a bit of mixed herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Make patties out of this mixture, shallow fry on a skillet and put it between two halves of a bun. Top with some tomato sauce. It will disappear into their tummy in minutes.
Leeks are interesting veggies because they can be used in a wide variety of dishes such as soups, stir fries, salads and so on. It can also be used in place of onions and even though it is a fairly bland vegetable, it imparts aroma and flavour to whichever dish it is added to. Leeks are a good source of dietary fibre and Vitamins K, C and B6. They also contain calcium and manganese.
Tip to make it interesting: Stir it into a noodle dish
It is rare to come across a kid who is averse to noodles. Children of all ages will lap up both home-made and restaurant bought noodle dishes in a jiffy. So why not make it healthy for them. Along with all the other veggies that you may add to a noodle dish, such as grated carrots, varieties of capsicum and so on, just sauté a few finely chopped leeks and mix it in. The flavour it imparts is heavenly and the children will love the enhanced taste.
Many children stay away from healthy foods such as zucchini because of its bland taste and the limited ways in which it is usually cooked. Actually, it is a very versatile ingredient and can be used in different ways -- in stir fries, baked dishes, Pan Asian curries and so on. Zucchini is a highly nutritious vegetable, which has lot of water content and hardly any calories. It is rich in magnesium, folate and potassium.
Tip to make it interesting: Use it in a frittata/omelette
For the uninitiated, a frittata is an Italian dish that is similar to an omelette but it has lots of veggies added to it. It is also finished off in an oven, so it becomes nice and fluffy. Just whisk a few eggs with salt and pepper, add herbs and pour into a frying pan. Now add sliced zucchini and boiled corn in such a way that it settles into the egg mixture. When it is half done, put in an oven to bake for a few minutes. You can leave off this step and just fry it like an omelette. If you are a parent of a picky eater, shred the zucchini instead of cutting in slices. Watch as the yummy dish disappears right in front of your eyes.
4. Red Pumpkin
Pumpkins are underrated vegetables, that hardly get any credit for the loads of nutrients they provide us. Since we mostly use them in curries, fussy children generally tend to avoid this humble veggie which is packed with Vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium and many more nutrients. So how do we make it a star?
Tip to make it interesting: Use it to bake muffins
The mention of muffins makes almost every child’s mouth water and this is one treat that your little one will never refuse. The shop-bought ones are loaded with calories and sugar, which are bad for your child. Instead, bake a delicious pumpkin and white chocolate muffin and you would be surprised at the results. To make it healthier, use powdered oats instead of plain flour and prepare it like any other muffin mixture. Just fold in shredded pumpkin and white chocolate chips and bake to perfection. Your kids will never know what’s inside.
These ingredients are loaded with fibre and important nutrients, and make a good snack to eat as it is, when one is hungry. There are a variety of sprouts you can use and all of them are high sources of vitamins, fibre and other nutrients. These include green gram and Bengal gram sprouts, bean sprouts, chick pea sprouts and many more. But children will turn their nose up if you quietly add a handful of sprouts in their lunch-box. So what do you do?
Tip to make it interesting: Put it in a veggie wrap/crepe
Give a child an interesting looking wrap in a lunch-box or as an after school snack, and they will love the way it satiates their hunger. Take a chappathi or a crepe and top the open side with grated cheese. To this, add steamed sprouts, sautéed mushrooms and crumbled paneer and sprinkle salt and pepper. Fold this into a wrap and use tomato ketchup and coriander leaves to dress it up. The boring sprouts have now become exciting.
No food is ‘boring’, as long as it can be turned into an interesting dish with a little tweak. With these tips, you can entice your children to try some healthy food, which they have been reluctant to try before. They might even ask for more.
Also check out this article on quick recipes for breakfast that take only 7 minutes: