My mother served us balanced meals when I was growing up, and she used vegetables and fruits that were in season because we didn’t have the great array of produce items we have available to us today. My serving of vegetables was rarely my favorite item on the plate, but I don’t remember having to be coaxed to eat them. They went with the rest of my food and I ate them like everyone else. It was part of the picture the grown-ups presented, and I usually wanted to follow their example.
Now that I’m the one serving the meals, I find it rough to fill in that vegetable gap. I fight an uphill battle nearly every meal and too often I’m on the losing side in more ways than one. When I back down and allow my kids to go without vegetables or fruits, I sometimes go without, too, because it’s the easy way. No coaxing, no arguments, and no fixing a vegetable in the first place; it’s an unhealthy habit to get into.
While Mark browsed last Friday at a local flea market and produce sale, as some were packing up for the day, one vendor – to move what he had left – made Mark a not-to be-refused offer, and a large “mess” of asparagus appeared in our refrigerator. Though skeptical about how much asparagus four people could eat, I was happy to note that Mark had cleaned the stalks, snapped off woody stems, and packed all neatly in a Tupperware container that stacked nicely in the fridge – so far, so good.
Fueled by the thought that I could become unreasonably unpleasant if the asparagus he brought into the house went bad even though I allow any number of foods to become unrecognizable in the depths of our refrigerator, (my shameful double standard), Mark volunteered to fix supper the next night and use some of his asparagus. He forgot that most vegetables cook down. Our portions that night were a meager five little stalks each. The girls ate theirs without complaint.
Knowing it wouldn’t keep for long, two nights later I cooked twice as much asparagus as Mark had. “Everyone gets 10 stalks,” I announced.
It was more than my no-veggies-required 16-year-old could take. The spears sat cold on her plate long after all else had been cleared. “You’re going to eat those,” I ordered as I envisioned her wrapping them in toilet paper and stuffing them in some remote corner of a waste receptacle like she had with some lima beans when she was preschool age.
Some time later her plate was empty; she said she ate them all, and I had a gut feeling it was true though I’ll never know for sure.
Why do vegetables leave her so cold and vice versa? She used to eat every colorful variety of veggie puree that Beechnut and Gerber packed in their little glass jars. Where did we parents go wrong? We ate our vegetables in front of her to set an example. Should we stand over her now, with a big stick and be insistent, or let it go and not worry that her health will be affected?
I plan to remain committed to our struggle with vegetables because I believe eating a variety of vegetables makes a healthy difference.
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