Come Over To The Green Side

June 12, 2014

Who doesn’t have a goal to eat more vegetables? To eat healthier? To enjoy delicious dinners? In a perfect world, kids would smile as they munched through broccoli, kale chips and collard greens. Your spouse would request tofu stir-fry for dinner. Having a toddler at home, I realize getting Mazen to eat his veggies by smiling when I put down his plate is much easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it my best effort! Here are a few tips to get your loved ones to like healthy food as much as you do.


Get Creative With Seasonings

Want to know one of my deep, dark secrets? I put maple syrup on all greens! That’s not entirely true, but I do love garlicky kale and collards finished with a drizzle of maple. The richness takes the bitterness out of the vegetables. I’m not suggesting you douse all veggies in sugar, but go a little heavy on the condiments – BBQ sauce, fancy mustards, cinnamon, vanilla, honey, parmesan, Cajun seasoning. Part of getting your loved ones to like the taste of the natural taste of healthy foods is actually putting them in their mouth. And if that requires a little sauce, so be it.

Be As Enthusiastic About Broccoli As You Are About Cookies

How many times did you hear your mom say: “Now Jennifer, you don’t get any cookies if you don’t finish that broc-coli.” With that slight negative tone on the vegetable part? Show your family how delicious they can be by taking the taboo out of them. I admit it’s hard to do, but when I talk to Mazen about food I try to make them all seem equal. Put as much enthusiasm in your voice when you talk about that baked sweet potato as you do when you talk about buttercream icing. (This may require some effort on your part, but it will be worth it!) Luckily Mazen likes broccoli as much as he likes cookies – when the cookies are out of sight!

Healthier Food Requires No Explanation

Stop cooking in black and white and see the world in color. Getting your family to like a wider variety of healthy foods will take time, so rather than presenting them with a stir-fry of tofu and bok choy, try adding to your standard recipes. Do a beef stir-fry with a little less beef and add some tofu to the mix. Or serve your family’s favorite tacos over salads rather than nacho chips. Similarly, don’t apologize or make a big deal about new foods or healthy swaps. Just do them. Present them as if the meal were normal. When I present Mazen with new foods, I speak very enthusiastically and make the dish seem special. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s golden.

On that note, here’s a recipe that I made a while back and never shared with KERF!

Bacon Cheese Bean Burgers

by Kath Younger

Keywords: entree sandwich beans bacon cheese

Ingredients (4 burgers)

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped into pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups pinto beans
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 grinds black pepper
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Cook bacon pieces in a hot pan until crispy.
  2. Remove from pan and turn off heat.
  3. Meanwhile, mash remaining ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Use a fork and lots of arm muscle power to turn the beans into a nice mash.
  4. Add bacon and mix.
  5. Form into 4 patties.
  6. Reheat bacon pan (with grease) and sear patties in grease for about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Flip and cook until both sides are brown.
  8. Turn off heat.
  9. Top with shredded cheese and cover for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve on a whole wheat bun or over a leafy salad.


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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa @bitesforbabies June 12, 2014 at 6:38 am

My sons has his ups and downs…about a month ago I thought he was OVER his “picky” phase but then it reared it’s ugly head again! Ugh! So frustrating! I find that when his veggies are properly seasoned and prepared in an interesting way he will go to town on them (of course, only when he’s not in one of his “moods!”) He loves these “green” recipes:


2 Maryea {happy healthy mama} June 12, 2014 at 6:41 am

I think consistency over time is key. Last night my 2 1/2 year old had grapes for dinner. That’s it. He would not try the carrots, kale, rice, or tofu I served him. But my 5 1/2 year old ate everything, and I know she would have turned her nose up at the same dinner back when she was 2 1/2. Treat picky stages like the stages they are and keep on keeping on! :)

Those burgers look incredible, by the way!


3 Amanda June 12, 2014 at 7:28 am

Great post! And while I don’t have kids, I could just insert my husband’s name in place of Mazen and it would be the same story!

Recipe sounds delish!


4 Emily @ Fit as a Mother... June 12, 2014 at 7:34 am

Kids go through so many phases! If I think about though, I guess I do too!


5 SD June 12, 2014 at 8:01 am

I’m really not sure adding sauces is the way to go unless you’re making them yourself and can monitor the amount of sugar added. Adding maple sugar, honey, BBQ etc will just encourage children to want sweet food. I agree with adding seasoning, but not sauces.


6 Joy June 12, 2014 at 8:19 am

You actually have shared that recipe before (a few years ago), because I made it and loved it!


7 Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} June 12, 2014 at 8:36 am

I love the recipe, we are all about the greens in our house!!


8 Hannah @ eat, drink, and save money June 12, 2014 at 9:04 am

Great tips! My husband actually does request tofu now that we’ve slowly added it into our meal rotation. It took some time, but it was worth it. I couldn’t agree with this post more!


9 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More June 12, 2014 at 9:06 am

I think it’s all about trying things over and over again and trying DIFFERENT veggies. If you asked me years ago if I liked parsnips I probably would have said no, despite never trying them before. They’ve now become one of my favorites and I love making a “paleo hummus” with them and then dipping in more veggies! :)


10 Livi June 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

Looks delicious!!


11 Simple Green Moms June 12, 2014 at 9:15 am

Great post! = ) I definitely think its hard to be as enthusiastic about broccoli as we are about ice cream and cookies but it is well worth it in the end!


12 Leah @ goodnight cheese June 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

Interesting post and nice tips! I didn’t know Matt was so picky with vegetables compared to you? The two of you seem to eat the same things.


13 Becca June 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

Kath, you did share this before! :) but it’s been a while so new readers will definitely appreciate it. Thanks!


14 KathEats June 12, 2014 at 10:53 am

Ahhh I must have! I couldnt find it :) nevertheless, it’s been a while.


15 Susie June 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Good tips on the psychology of getting toddlers to eat their greens but maybe you can change the recipe seeing since it is a repeat… (greedily I just want another Kath recipe!) Have to say though a recipe using greens would have been more appropriate to the post topic!

Also with the worcester sauce + bacon + added salt I wouldn’t have thought that burger would be suitable for a toddler (too salty)?

Another question, I thought that it was a bad idea to give small children sugary foods as it gives them a taste for it and makes it harder to get them to try and like (non sweet) foods…. Interested to hear your RD take on this – maybe just an old wives tale??


16 Chelsea @ TableForOne June 12, 2014 at 10:27 am

Love the maple syrup trick! I don’t have kids, but my man won’t eat his greens. I might just have to try them with a little maple syrup and see what happens. Thanks for the tips!


17 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh June 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

I love to occasionally give my Brussels a toss in a little maple syrup. Delish!


18 Heather J. June 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

Can you make these on a grill? or is it to mushy and will fall thru?


19 KathEats June 12, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I think so, yes


20 Emily @ Life on Food June 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

Lucky for me and my husband we enjoy mostly the same foods and they are healthy. Hopefully that won’t change when the little one comes along.


21 Melissa @ HerGreenLife June 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

As a vegetarian, it’s important to me that my little guy (3yo) eat and enjoy a variety of beans. Sometimes, he’s more enthusiastic about them than others. His favorites are chickpeas and “Paul’s beans,” which are a variety of black-eyed pea (AKA cowpea) that our friend Paul grows and sells. The fact that G went with daddy to help pick-up Paul’s beans, and got to see the farm, makes them extra special. And veggie burgers (made with beans), are almost always a big hit!


22 Lauren June 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Love the tips. I don’t have kids yet, but it’ll be tough if they’re picky eaters!

One tip I discovered when hanging out with my cousins (girl 10, boy 8) when they didn’t want to try the asparagus their mom had made, I told them “the really cool thing about asparagus is that it makes your pee smell funny!” They thought that was hilarious and both wanted to try. The next day when their mom served them leftovers they both said “Asparagus?! Yummy!”

I like to give kids a reason to eat healthy food beyond just “it’s good for you,” but you’ve got a ways to go before Mazen asks why he has to eat his greens. Hopefully by then he’ll be just as enthusiastic about them as you are! Thanks for the inspiration!


23 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats June 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Whenever I’m making a salad I try to think: Lots of color!!! The more color, the more nutrients!


24 Lindsay Hazard June 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I love your blog! I stumbled across it today when looking up becoming a Registered Dietitian! My last day at my current job is in 2 weeks and I start taking my prerequisite classes in July! I can’t wait to start my journey to becoming an RD. I started following you in Bloglovin’ so I can keep up :-) Thanks for sharing your RD journey!


25 Meghan June 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

I’ve personally found the less fanfare around food, the better!

Do you find you get a better response when you present the meal as special, or don’t draw any attention to it? I have to admit I’m a bit confused as you first said keep it normal, then said you make it special. Our rule was always “just one bite” – after that, if they didn’t want any more it was OK because at least they tasted it. As they grew older, we kept it up and some firm dislikes eventually became favorites.


26 Danielle June 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I totally agree with you on feeding a toddler! When we have yummy, healthy food in the house my 2.5 year old daughter gladly chomps down on nearly everything I put on her plate! When we have junk food in the house she will gravitate towards that, which is why for both of our sake I tend to keep the junk out and stock our house with healthy options. The only fool proof thing that she will (almost) always eat are pistachios! :)


27 katherine June 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm

My kids are GREAT at eating veggies, which I love since they are 3 and 21 mo, but occasionally they get tired of the salads/greens that I put on the plate…. then I whip out the magic serum…..just a slight drizzle of honey. They eat it right up! and so far they are both super healthy and consistently in the 20% percentile with a healthy BMI. GOOOOOOO real food!


28 Family Ventures June 12, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I don’t know. I just don’t think it is that hard to get toddlers/kids to eat healthy if you start them off right, right away. We never catered down to our son (who is now 3). We have never made him special meals and we limited sugar. We never bought “baby food.” He always ate what we ate and he still does to this day. He will literally eat anything we put on his plate and has never said he doesn’t like something. He will choose salad over fries any day. My biggest challenge is getting him to slow down long enough to just EAT! :)


29 KathEats June 13, 2014 at 6:42 am

You got really lucky! Not saying your efforts were good too but it’s just hit or miss. Mazen isn’t a terrible eater but I put in a great effort and he’s not a healthy food lover.


30 Slater June 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I totally agree. I’ve seen some articles that actually looked at brain chemistry, taste buds, etc and the impact on food tastes. Food scientifically tastes different to kids than it does to us, and food does not taste the same for every person and every child. For some, sour is more sour, bitter is more bitter, etc. There is an element of genetics in play, and it isn’t as easy for every parent.


31 Rosie Lucchesini-Jack June 15, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Great post! As the mom of a 6 yr old who eats blessedly eats *most* things, I would add a few other suggestions in the Condiment category: dont be afraid of using salt and fat. A drizzle of olive oil, or melted butter along with some salt make vegetables that much more palatable for little ones. Of course parmesan and other cheeses are salty so dont be afraid to sprinkle those on as well.


32 Izzy @ Veganizzm June 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm

I just read an article about pitching veggies to kids in the NYT! Check it out:


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