At Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit, I chair a Lunch and Nutrition Committee that recently interviewed food service providers to develop a healthy lunch program for the fall. Thanks to a generous donation, we have been able to install a state-of-the-art kitchen, and we are seeking a food service provider who can make wholesome, non-processed food tasty to even our pickiest eaters.
Recently we had our first “tasting” and it was so much fun, and so delicious. The entire menu happened to be vegan, although the lunch program will not exclude animal foods, and we had four picky student testers come in—one of whom said he would never have eaten anything like this food before, but that, having tasted so many delicious samples, he just needs to tell his mom where to sign up because he’s “in”!
More on this student in a moment, but as for today’s recipe, it’s a riff on a salad we sampled. I changed a few things, but basically, it’s any beans you like, a tiny dice of any crunchy vegetables, shredded carrot, salt and pepper to taste, perhaps some snipped basil or another herb, a light drizzle of olive oil, and a generous splash of apple cider vinegar. Mix well and let marinate for an hour or two before serving. Here is exactly what I put in mine this time, but please personalize. And don’t forget, beans are a nutrient-dense protein source if you’re finding yourself always relying on meat and fish. It’s good to switch things up.
DIY Bean, Veggie, and Herb Salad
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas (the chef used navy beans; try others, too)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, diced small
½ red or yellow pepper, diced small
salt and pepper (to taste)
6-7 basic leaves, minced
3-4 springs parsley, stemmed and minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3–4 T apple cider vinegar (or try seasoned rice vinegar)
Back to this adorable seventh grader, newly awakened to the pleasures of whole food. Is it just me, or do many kids experiment with and enjoy new foods only in case their mothers have not cooked or prepared it? My own picky eater has tried foods at others’ tables that he would never give me the satisfaction of trying in my kitchen. Similarly, when I host my kids’ friends, they will often confess that they love the salad I prepared or the kale whatever, but that they never would eat those foods at home. One little girl told me that all she eats for dinner at home is pizza and fast-food chicken, but meantime she devoured a plateful of wild salmon, broccoli, and brown rice. There is a power struggle around kids and food that’s real and underlies many parents’ struggle to entice their kids with healthier fare only to be rejected and manipulated into serving junk so “at least the kid will eat.” I don’t have any easy answers—no one does—but check out Dina Rose’s helpful series of articles on this topic, beginning here.
The most important thing is to never stop serving your children healthy options and to continue modeling proper eating yourself. You are giving them an education in how to take care of their bodies when they go out into the world, and education is a slow process. I’m pleased to say that persistence has paid off for me, and that now that my son is fifteen and wants to gain strength, have energy, and look his best, it turns out that mom’s take on good food wasn’t so stupid after all. . .