Dumped from a can. Heated in a microwave bag. Swimming in butter or salt. These methods of preparation represent the average parent’s veggie repertoire, says registered dietitian Sheri Allen, who also holds a master’s degree in public health.
Parents will drag their teens to Allen for an “eat your veggies” lecture, she says, yet “often it’s the parents who don’t like, or don’t eat, a variety of veggies.”
Teenagers are often still counting on parents to take the lead when it comes to nutrition and meals. “The teen will say to me, ‘I don’t do the grocery shopping,’” says Allen. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to take a family approach and to involve the teen in both the shopping and the cooking.
But what should families buy and cook to increase that veggie intake?
In a recent series of taste tests, Penn State researchers discovered that high school students passed over plain oil-and-salt veggies, preferring those that had been seasoned with custom blends of herbs and spices. That was true even if the seasonings were new to them.
Only 2 percent of teens eat the recommended amount of vegetables, and that’s a big issue.
Allen explains that a child’s growth hits fast forward during adolescence. Not only are they growing taller, she says, but “their internal organs are doubling in size, and they are gaining a majority of their maximum bone density, as well as increased lean body mass and body fat to set themselves up for adulthood.”
And while healthy carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats are important, it’s the vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables that drive this whole growth process, she says. So, it’s worth adding some creativity to your cooking methods to get those vegetables in.
Whatever a teen’s current approach to eating vegetables, it’s likely that they (and their parents) need to be eating more of them. So, it’s worth working towards veggies that are less dull—and more delicious.
5 Ideas to Make Vegetables Taste Good:
- Cook veggies in broth instead of water (use bone broth to boost the nutrition factor even more)
- Experiment with new-to-you vegetables and recipes
- Add flavorful plants while cooking, such as garlic, onion, ginger, and shallots
- Toss veggies with spices and herbs, which can also provide their own important nutrients
- Try out new flavor combinations—taco seasoning on corn? It just might work.