Shall we start the new year by talking about encouraging our family members to enjoy vegetables?
The woes, the tears, the struggle…
But wait, we’re all real foodies. None of us struggle with encouraging our family members to take a bite (or two, or three) of the vegetables we serve each day, right?!
I wish there was a magical real food guarantee, “If you make and serve healthy food, your family will always run to the dinner table and proclaim their love for all-things green, leafy, and vegetabley.” (Vegetabley, it’s a new 2016 word.) If I’m totally honest, which is a character trait I strive to live out, then I must admit that there is absolutely no guarantee that a real food lifestyle will automatically translate into a veggie-loving family. Sounds like a depressing way to start a blogpost, right?
Oh wait, I have good vegetable related news. Don’t run away just yet!
There are ways, and nothing crazy like putting spinach and kale in your brownies (please, just say no! Don’t ruin brownies!), to encourage our families to eat and enjoy vegetables. I know many of us, including myself, have set goals this year to encourage our family members (I’m including myself in this one, too. I can be just as a picky.) to be more adventurous foodies. Let’s talk about about a couple of practical action plan ideas for accomplishing our vegetable-inspired goals:
1. Don’t take “no” as the final word. That title probably sounds a tad bit disrespectful and rebellious, which is not what I’m encouraging here, so let me explain with a real life example from my home.
Dustin isn’t a big fan of squash. Okay, more like he hates any and every kind of squash. In fact, just the mention of squash always yields the most unpleasant facial expressions. Even though Dustin says he hates squash, he actually enjoys this vegetable family if I present squash in a non-squashy sort of way: added to soups, in a casserole with a meat and grain, mac and cheese, in muffins, etc. The recipe I’m going to share today is Dustin’s favorite soup, and guess what? The recipe calls for 2 whole cups of zucchini squash! Squash noodles to be exact.
Lesson 1: Just because your family doesn’t like one form of a vegetable doesn’t mean they don’t like that vegetable. Maybe it’s time to try a new presentation, recipe, or method for cooking the vegetable. Experimenting is key!
2. Encourage family involvement. I know we are all busy living our lives, and involving the kids in the cooking process may seem like one more thing to do, but hear me out. Encouraging family members to help plan, prep, and cook vegetables is a great way to increase the likelihood that vegetables will be consumed and enjoyed. Let’s talk about another real life example from my home, okay?
Piper, my five year-old, has been a challenging foodie. He eats lots of healthy food (because that’s what we serve), but he’s also picky about the appearance, taste, and texture of food. He’s also not a big fan of meals that have lots of ingredients mixed together: salads, casseroles, stir-fry, etc.
Last year, I bought Piper a kid-friendly knife and asked him to help me chop vegetables when I serve a salad with dinner. Now, this isn’t practical every single night, but once or twice a week seemed totally doable! With his new kid-friendly knife, Piper was eager to chop and build our nightly salads, but he didn’t care to actually eat the salads. Pretty typical. Within a few weeks, I noticed his curiosity was peaked, and you won’t believe what happened next? He started sampling the very vegetables he usually refused to eat at dinner.
Does Piper love salad now? Nope, he doesn’t! But that’s okay. He enjoys helping in the kitchen and loves to sample the various vegetables that go into the soup, salad, or casserole. Maybe he won’t ever be a big salad fan, and that’s 100% okay with me. There are so many more ways to enjoy vegetables (see #1).
Lesson 2: Encouraging family members to help prepare and cook meals is a great way to introduce vegetables. The experience may just result in taste-testing curiosity.
Will our families always eat vegetables if we work on applying both methods to our real food approach? Probably not! But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying. In 2016, let’s try new recipes that use vegetables in new ways and encourage family participation! Trust me, friend, I’m talking to myself here, too. Even after eight years of enjoying real food, I continually need these reminders, hence my 2016 goal: Be more adventurous (with food and life in general).
And now for today’s recipe: Stove-Top Chicken and Vegetable Noodle Soup. This soup is an ideal meal for encouraging vegetable consumption. The base of the soup is made with classic soup vegetables: onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and potatoes. Chicken and homemade broth are also added for the classic chicken noodle flavor, and the meat lovers. Yea, pretty normal soup stuff right? Until the end…
Vegetable noodles, made from fresh zucchini and carrots, are added to the fragrant soup for the ultimate (and super fun!) vegetable soup experience. And here’s the best part? The vegetables aren’t hiding away in some brownie, so family members know exactly what they’re eating: super flavorful and nutrient-rich vegetables!
Stove-Top Chicken and Vegetable Noodle Soup
- 1 TB butter (olive oil or ghee also work)
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped sweet potato or white potato (both work well, just depends on your taste preference)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf I've made this soup without a bay leaf, and it still tastes great. If you don't have bay leaves around, this ingredient may be skipped.
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 packed cups shredded cooked chicken*
- 2 cups zucchini noodles*
- 2 cups carrot noodles*
- 2 tsp salt
- pepper, to taste
- In a Dutch oven or soup pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped vegetables: onion, celery, and potatoes. Saute the vegetables for 5-7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and thyme sprigs. Once the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute), add the shredded chicken and broth.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a lively simmer and cover the pot. Cook the soup for 20-25 minutes, until the chopped potatoes are soft and the thyme leaves fall from the stem.
- Add the zucchini and carrot noodles to the soup. Place the cover on the pot and allow the noodles to simmer in the soup until al dente (about 6-7 minutes).
- Season the soup with salt and pepper. I use 2 teaspoons of salt since my homemade broth doesn't contain any salt. The broth used will determine the amount of salt you need. I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more salt as needed. Remove the thyme stems before serving.
*Cooked chicken options: This soup calls for “shredded cooked chicken.” This means you can use leftover chicken from last night’s chicken dinner (oven roasted or crock-pot method), or cook chicken specifically for this soup. When I need to cook chicken specifically for this soup, I usually boil chicken thighs. To use this method: Place 2lbs of bone-in chicken thighs in a pot of water (make sure the water covers the chicken), bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer, and cook the chicken for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken from the water and shred the meat. Reserve the bones for making broth in the future (they freeze well).
*To make the zucchini and carrot noodles: I use a spiralizer that makes vegetable noodles in just a matter of seconds. I prefer to use the smallest noodle-size blade. For larger noodles, use the larger noodle-size blade, and cook the noodles an extra 2-3 minutes. About 1-2 large carrots and 1 large zucchini should make more than enough noodles for this soup. I like to cut my noodles in half with a knife, if they are really long, before adding them to the soup. If you don’t have or want a spiralizer, a simple julienne peeler will also produce veggie noodles.
Love to see more rotisserie chicken leftover recipes! Yum
Hey Leigh, There are lots of on the blog, but we should compile them all in one place. Good idea!
I just made this in the instantpot and it turned out so good. I sautéed the first veggies; sweet potato, onion, celery then added the garlic , chicken and broth, salt, thyme and bay leaf as directed. I set to high pressure for 15 minutes and after the natural pressure was out I added the spiraled zoodlesand just put the lid back on with the instantpot turned off and they just softened down perfectly. Thanks for the yummy recipe!
Would you be able to post the instructions please
Hey Emily, Hmmm, I’m not sure why they are missing. They were there. Yes, I’m sorry about that. Let me see what I can do to fix this.
Yummy soup! My fam loved it! My husband and I are so happy about the veggie noodles!
Yay, Gen! I’m so glad you all loved it. The noodles are so fun.
This soup is THE BEST! Unbelieveble flavor when you use sweet potoaoes and homemade broth. My 3 and 5 year old newphews enjoyed it as well. A MUST try!
Hey Emily, I’m so glad you’re loving the soup!! Yay!
Ok, Thanks so much !! I made this soup last night using turkey drumsticks and it is awesome !!
Perfect, Susan! I’m so glad you enjoyed the soup!
Could you let me know what the calorie count of this soup? Thanks so much!
Hey Susan, I’m not sure about the calorie count, I’m sorry. I believe you could enter the recipe into My Fitness Pal and they will provide the nutritional information about this soup: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/.
I’m going to try this with Broccoli Slaw
Yum, Kieran! Broccoli slaw sounds great!
I had fussy eaters too, take heart you are doing the right things. My 18 and 20 year olds are good eaters now. And by that I mean they turn their noses up at processed food and takeaways and prepare food themselves from (mainly) fresh healthy ingredients without prompting. Success!! I found my turning point was when I started encouraging them to try everything, no pressure to eat it – they were allowed to spit it out as long as they had tasted it. I learned from research that it takes 10 tastes to get used to a new food, so you can’t expect a child to like something straight away, be prepared for disgust. So my other rule was that we didn’t say something was disgusting, it wasn’t nice to say that when other people liked it or had made it for us. We just said I don’t think I like that yet. And then we left it on our plates. Takes a long time, I remember, but the key was talking to the children and explaining the 10-tastes idea. They still remember it, they still say it when they are trying something new! Best wishes, Rusty
Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Rusty!
I have a picky 5-year-old son who doesn’t eat much in general. My husband and I have just finally decided to put our foot(feet?) down and not make him separate food. I’m wondering what you do when your kids just won’t eat what you make. To use the example above, what happens when you have salad for dinner and your son won’t eat it?
Hey Cassie, That happens quite frequently with my five year-old son, too :). If I know something isn’t going to pass his “friendly food radar” than I usually make a side or something that I know he will eat alongside the meal. For example, if we’re having a salad, I know he loves carrots and cucumbers. So I’ll serve a couple of carrot sticks on his plate with a small amount of salad on the side. He usually doesn’t want the salad (we always encourage trying), but he will eat the carrots.
For main meals, I make hardboiled eggs each week (a food he loves), and they can serve as a meal “backup” to make sure he eats something if he tries a meal and doesn’t care for it.
Hope that helps :).
Sounds delicious. I have a picky eater too and often find that different preparations of certain things can often make it acceptable to his palate. I’m so glad you addressed this real struggle most cooks have, thank you for your encouraging words and recipe!
I see the spiralizer can shred cabbage, have you discovered any size, or other limitations with it? I’m thinking of getting one, but I have to justify the space consumption in my kitchen haha.;-)
Hey Bethany, I’m so glad the post was encouraging :). I think there’s a huge misconception that can sometimes come across when writing a blog, “Oh, my kids eat everything.” And it’s simply not true. As you mentioned, it’s a struggle, but one that is worth working through.
I purchased my spiralizer about a year ago, but just now started to really use it. My family doesn’t like 100% zucchini (or other veggie) noodles (except in soup), so I mix the veggie noodles with spaghetti noodles for an Italian night. Cabbage works great in the spiralizer, too! My biggest complaint is the size and storage, as you mention. Also, the blades are super sharp, which can be a bit dangerous when you’re washing dishes. A great site for spiralized recipes and inspiration is Inspiralized.