So, yesterday I had an opportunity to teach about 600 kids grades K-5 about why they need to eat a broad range of foods in various colors. I had approximately 4-5 minutes to speak to them in order to also give them a chance to sample some foods. Ten minutes total. Yikes!
I tried to make the point that it takes their tastebuds 10 times to “become friends” with new foods. Some of them, they like right away (the same way we sometimes like new friends right away) and some foods take a little longer to get to know before we really like them. But you can’t really say you don’t like a new food until you’ve tasted it 10 times.
I also told them that the nutrients that make a food a certain color do different things in their bodies. I didn’t always remember to tell them that these are foods that GROW in these colors–not added. “There are nutrients in these tomatoes and these peppers that makes them red. When that nutrient that makes them red gets into your body, it helps your heart and your memory!” Quick, easy to remember. Orange and yellows helped eyes and immunity (“helping you fight off colds and illness”). Whites and browns helped memory and cleaning out the blood–including helping with a word called “cholesterol”. Greens–especially leafy greens–were good for teeth and bones. I was able to add a note to most of them that my own family can’t have milk because we’re allergic and it makes us sick–so eating leafy greens was how we kept our bones and teeth strong. And blues and purples helped your body to get old slowly and help your memory.
I have to say–most of the kids were good about trying new stuff. I offered them red bell peppers and grape tomatoes, steamed butternut squash, steamed cauliflower, lightly steamed green beans (which were the least tasted food), blackberries and steamed beets.
The beets were a pretty big hit–which is good because I altered a document from Wegman’s that has the kids tracking their “Eat a Rainbow” skills and on the back I added how to make the beets. 😀 We usually make beets after dinner or during dinner, but we don’t use them the same night because I don’t pay enough attention to how long they’re going to take. And they take a long time to roast. Super EASY, just not great for timing. So when mine are done roasting I don’t even take them out of whatever I cooked them in–I just throw that into the fridge (although in the days when I used foil packets for it, I put them on a dish or cookie sheet in case it leaked). Then I can slip the skins off and use them when I need them. We eat them cold, but they’re quick enough to heat up. From the sheet I gave out:
Beets are sweet—trim the greens off and wash them, then put in a foil packet or covered oven-safe container and drizzle with vegetable oil. If you have something in the oven that’s cooking somewhere between 325° and 425°, put them in. They cook comfortably in that range, but may take longer at lower temperatures. Alone, you can cook them at 375°. Size also dictates cooking time. You can start checking small beets (smaller than your fist) at 25 minutes. Large ones may take an hour (more at lower heat). They’re done when they are tender. Once cooked, the skins slide off with your fingers. If you don’t eat them immediately, you can then store them in the fridge for use in the next day or two.
Oh, and a few kids learned about spaghetti squash. Our family uses this in place of actual spaghetti–so if you’re gluten-free, that’s a good way to go! If you want to try THAT, there are three ways to cook it: oven, microwave and boiling it. I’ve only ever used the oven. I’m kinda lazy that way. 🙂
Here are pretty easy instructions on cooking it whole in the oven with pictures:
Here is a different method that cooks in the oven, but sliced in half. This method does not include adding water the cooking pan (which puts some steam in the oven) but works well:
Here is a cut-up method for both the oven and microwave. Note: you do not have to season the squash!
Microwaving it whole:
And last, but not least, boiling it:
The kids also ate steamed butternut squash. You can buy butternut squash in the frozen foods section (obviously peeled and cut up already) or in the fresh produce section (either as a whole squash OR also peeled and cut up). Here is what I have to tell you about butternut squash:
If you’re just going to eat it mashed up like mashed potatoes, go ahead and buy the whole squash and fear not. If you keep them in a cool place (50-60 degrees, like an unheated sunroom or porch) they keep for quite a while. Like a month even. I’ve kept mine for at least 6 weeks and only had a spot or two on them that “weep” some sap (which I just cut around and move on).
But if I’m actually going to have to peel and cut a butternut, it’s worth every extra cent I pay to have it already done for me. Seriously. The skin has a sap in it that will get all over your hands and is literally like crazy glue–so it takes a day (or three) to get it off of your hands. No amount of scrubbing or oil-based cleaner appears to get this stuff off. We are only really ever in a position to do this once each year when we get them from the CSA and need to preserve them and don’t have room in the freezer for puree (you’re not supposed to can/jar it as a puree). We have since gotten a second extra freezer. Problem resolved. And if you’re thinking of using latex gloves, make sure they’re skin-tight and super grippy because this is NOT a job you want to do with unsure hands.
The kids also really got into the cauliflower. Who knew?
None of what I gave them had any sauce or seasoning on it. And I would suggest always introducing foods to them that way! Then they develop a taste for great, whole foods. Assume the best with them and use “stuff” only when necessary. It also helps reduce the aggravation of preparing foods and reduces the budget (no extra ingredients!). Win-win-win… 😀