Tips from Expert Chef Mark Allison
Following Taste-Great Produce for Kids: Part 1, we sat down with expert Chef Mark Allison, Director of Culinary Nutrition at the Dole Nutrition Institute, to talk about how he encourages his own children to be adventurous with fruits and vegetables.
Q: What is the first step in encouraging children to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables?
A: I have three very different boys, so I know how hard it can be to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables—and this is coming from a chef! Getting the kids involved in shopping and cooking is extremely important. We start by going to the grocery store and seeing the abundance of beautiful fruits and vegetables. The kids choose what they want to try. Back home in the kitchen, the kids wash, peel and slice the produce they chose, and I help them cook, flavor and taste the finished dish. Making dinner as a family is a great way to spend time together and an opportunity for the kids to learn a life skill and get excited about trying new foods.
Q: What are some of your favorite family meals that include fruits and vegetables?
A: One of our family traditions is pizza night. We arrange bowls of chopped up vegetables, and the boys have fun designing their own colorful “pizza faces” using veggies. We also make sauces and soups with pureed vegetables. For our homemade tomato sauce we add carrots, red peppers and garlic.
Q: Do you have any tips for adding more produce to children’s’ regular diets?
A: I try to incorporate some produce into every meal and snack, including dessert. Try juicing fruits and vegetables or using them for smoothies, milkshakes or ice pops. We combine bananas, strawberries and a little frozen yogurt to make a creamy strawberry shake, and like to freeze carrot juice with some plain yogurt in ice pop molds for a healthful treat. You can also sneak in more produce by making banana bread, sweet potato muffins, brownies with pureed spinach, or carrot cake. The whole family loves these foods, plus they pack nutrition, so it’s a win-win situation that keeps everyone happy and healthy.
Q: What are some easy healthy snack ideas for kids?
A: We keep sliced vegetables in zip lock bags in the fridge for convenient, healthful between-meal snacking. The kids enjoy vegetables with hummus, ranch dip or low-fat yogurt. The hummus from Dole’s Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with Sesame-Banana Hummus recipe also tastes great with fresh crudités. Sliced apples or celery sticks with peanut butter is another favorite snack.
Q: Any last advice for parents?
A: It’s going to be an uphill battle if you’re trying to convince your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and you don’t eat them too! Make mealtime a family affair, but don’t force your children to eat foods they don’t want to eat. Take your time in trying new foods and remember, a little at a time is better than none at all. Have fun with your food and over time the whole family will love to eat more fruits and vegetables every day.
Published August 1, 2015