Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tricking Kids Into Eating Vegetables

This semester, I am teaching a "Food Appreciation Class". This will either be the best thing I've ever done professionally, or it will be cited in the newspaper report about why I shot up that shopping mall.

Teaching kids to cook can be immensely rewarding and insanely frustrating all at the same time. And I'm not teaching just any kids, I'm teaching a gaggle of middle school kids with mild to moderate special needs. Lots of impulsivity issues and poor decision making skills, even for young adolescents. So the highs are much higher and the lows are much lower.

Take today for example, I'm currently teaching a unit on how to pack a sack lunch that doesn't make me want to gag when I look at it. The lunches they bring range from Hot Pockets, to Spaghetti Os to entire frozen pizzas. One of my students downs a 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew each morning while he munches a fast food breakfast in the car on his way to school. My #1 goal this semester is to help them shake off these poor eating habits the parents have allowed them to develop.

Our recipes were two simple sandwiches that they can make themselves at home with minimal assistance. In fact, I want them to be able to do it themselves. No fancy ingredients or weird looking tools. We did Alton Brown's Roasted Veggie Cream Cheese Spread, which is delicious, and we did a simple tuna salad sandwich mixed with roasted red peppers and baby spinach. That turned out amazingly good.

The comments from the kids as we made these amused me greatly. "I don't like tuna fish!" "Are red peppers spicy?" "Will the zucchini make it slimy?"

Afterwards, all the comments became "You gave me a copy of the recipe right?" "You must have bought some fancy tuna, because this was GOOD!" "I'm going to ask my mom if I can start eating dairy again, that smells great."

I hope they bring some of these to school with them in the coming weeks. If nothing else they ate a vegetable today.

Tuna Salad with Veggies

2 cans tuna
3/4 c mayo
1/2 c roasted red peppers (You can find these in little glass jars at the grocery store if you don't want to roast your own)
1 c baby spinach, chopped or torn into bite sized pieces
Toasted whole wheat bread or crackers

Combine all ingredients, then spread on the toasted bread. Eat.

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