Was anyone besides me not surprised to learn that students are throwing away more of their vegetables and fruits now that schools are required to include them in school lunches? Researchers found that students were throwing away fruits and veggies at a rate that was 56% higher than before the foods were required.
Since I worked as a student cook in the cafeteria back in my Oberlin College days, I remember the “real cooks” telling me to sprinkle a handful of salt and a handful of sugar over the mushy canned or frozen veggies before we put them in the enormous steamers. As someone who had loved vegetables my entire life, it made me queasy to see how they were prepared for mass consumption.
My guess is that this practice is still going on today in most school cafeterias. And, as anyone who has raised a child knows, as soon as you tell a young person that they are required to eat something, that is an immediate trigger to get them to avoid the “required” food. (I can still vividly recall our son Nick, as a 5-year old, proclaiming, “You’re not the boss of me!”)
So instead of trying to force our kids to eat mushy corn, peas, green beans, and broccoli in their school lunches, why not pack them mid-day snacks of the raw veggies they already like? Most kids I know love to munch on grape tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, and even raw broccoli.
Here are three simple ideas for making those raw veggies even more appealing:
- Add one of the new mini-containers of guacamole made by Wholly Guacamole.
- Put some organic salsa in a small 2 or 3-ounce container (Muir Glen makes several types of delicious organic salsa).
- Even that perennial kid-favorite, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, now comes in an organic version.
So, instead of trying to force mushy, over-cooked cafeteria veggies down your child’s throat, pack them an alternative that they will enjoy eating – or serve it to them as a healthy after-school snack. It doesn’t matter what time of the day they eat their veggies – raw or cooked!
And once they’re home, instead of serving that same boring tossed green salad you make for most dinners, why not try a Caprese Salad? It’s still possible to get vine ripened tomatoes in the Carolinas and in many other areas of the country, and it hasn’t gotten too cold yet for my outdoor basil. I paired these two fresh ingredients with Red Butter Lettuce from Tega Hills Farm and impeccably fresh and creamy mozzarella, lovingly hand-made by Zack Gadberry at UAV (Uno All Volta Cheese).
Drizzle with a fruity organic olive oil and season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt, and you have an ultra-simple fresh salad that even your kids will love.
Start your kids young on delicious fresh vegetables and salads. Trust me. Nick started eating Caprese Salad when he was about 18 months old and he still adores it today – along with almost every kind of raw or cooked vegetable.
Back then in Baltimore, I used Mr. Mastellone’s fresh mozz from Mastellone’s Deli. Until I found UAV, I thought I would never taste mozzarella that was that good or that fresh again. I’m glad Zack proved me wrong. We’ve got the real thing right here in Charlotte, folks.
Choose fresh, quality ingredients at every meal and help your kids learn to love good food.
- 1 head organic lettuce
- 2 large organic vine-ripe tomatoes
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
- Several sprigs of fresh organic basil
- Organic olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly ground sea salt
- Wash as much lettuce as you need and dry it carefully. I like to use the whole leaf rather than tearing it up into bits.
- Slice the tomatoes using a separated knife.
- Slice the ball of mozzarella, making sure you have enough slices to layer one on each tomato slice.
- Remove the leaves on your basil sprigs.
- Layer the lettuce, tomato, basil, and mozzarella on a chilled salad plate.
- Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- What could be easier - or more delicious?