Parents use various strategies to include broccoli’s essential nutrients in their children’s diets. Some sneak the veggie into meals in the hope that if Bobby can’t see the broccoli, he won’t make a fuss. However, if children aren’t aware they are consuming this delicious vegetable, how can they be expected to identify with broccoli as a vegetable they love?
Problem: Pale, waterlogged broccoli is unappealing to adults, so you can bet it is just as unappealing to children. Broccoli, commonly incorporated into school lunches, ends up in the garbage more than in the mouths of children. When I inquired with my students why they dislike this delicious, cruciferous vegetable, they used the words soggy, mushy, and tasteless to describe the vegetable. Some parents “doctor” broccoli with cheese sauces, but again, this is more of an attempt to mask the taste of the vegetable! Doctoring isn’t bad, but you still want to be able to taste the vegetable in order to acquire a love for it.
Solution: How you cook broccoli directly impacts if children eat the vegetable. Broccoli (high in fiber and a rich source of vitamins and phytonutrients) is an important addition to your child’s lunch or dinner plate. Maximize nutritious value by lightly steaming the vegetable. Keep the florets the same size for best cooking results. A little crunch is ideal to maintain flavor, nutrients, and happy kids. Adding a little panache to this crisp, crunchy vegetable allows you to up the flavor while still keeping the vegetable recognizable. The key is for broccoli to look like broccoli. Just a tiny sprinkle of sea salt or shredded cheese is all you may need to make broccoli kid-pleasing.
Buying Tip: Choose a heavy-for-its-size head of broccoli with tightly bunched, firm stalks and bright green florets. Avoid broccoli heads with any soft or slippery spots, a strong smell, and dried, browning, or yellowing florets, as these are an indication of age.
- A cheesy sprinkle. A light sprinkle of a finely grated cheese on broccoli is a great way to add a bit of extra flavor.
- Make broccoli slaw. This summer treat offers great taste and all the crisp goodness of broccoli. Finely slice the broccoli stems into long strips. Add a handful to your child’s sandwich or wrap, or use them for added crunch to top a salad. These little shoestrings are less intimidating than a big floret.
- Broccoli and pasta. Add crunch to any pasta dish and still maintain the nutrition of the broccoli. Add broccoli to your favorite sauce just minutes before it’s done heating, or sauté it with a little olive oil and garlic, and toss with your pasta before serving. Remember, smaller pieces are less overwhelming.