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Smuggling vegetables to feed the kids

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 3:08pm

My husband and I were in Taipei recently and decided to have French food instead of dumplings and noodles. During our indulgently "grown-up" dinner, we wondered when our two young daughters would be ready for a fine-dining experience, and whether they would enjoy food as much as we do.

My younger daughter almost always eats everything prepared for her. Then again, she's a compliant baby who's grateful for any novel experience. My elder daughter was the same at that age, but is now selective about what she will put into her mouth and how much she consumes. She's also particular about the order she eats her food.

At 15 months old, my elder daughter was conscientiously feeding herself entire bowls of all-in-one meals. Meanwhile, a friend's four-year-old child would be playing a handheld electronic game while being spoon-fed by his mother. I remember feeling so smug at those family dinners with friends. But at age four, my elder daughter now needs a lot of coaxing, and then threats, before she will finish her dinner.

A great beginner's guide to feeding children is Real Food for Healthy Kids by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel. In addition to more than 200 recipes ranging from basic to creative dishes, the authors discuss food psychology and etiquette. It is not uncommon for children to dislike anything new.

Studies show that it can take children over a dozen tries of a new food before their palate gets used to it, and they want to eat it. So a good rule is to make sure your children take one bite of any new food they are initially resistant to. Don't force them to eat more than that one bite.

The most-used recipe book in our home is Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious. I admit that I bought the book because she is a celebrity (the wife of comedian Jerry). Although I don't share her belief in hiding vegetables, I am impressed by how Seinfeld sneaks them into what she serves her children, such as spinach purée in a recipe for brownies.

I always serve vegetables in plain sight of my children, but I do love Seinfeld's recipes because they're tasty, and they give my children that extra serving of veggies in case they don't eat their choi sum.

A staple in my book-gift closet, and one that I can't wait to start exploring with my children, is The Gastrokid Cookbook by Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans. This has recipes for kid-friendly dishes that parents can also enjoy. Dishes include roasted chickpea bruschetta (from New York's Babbo restaurant) and their macaroni and cheese calls for prosciutto, pan-roasted tomatoes and crispy sage

But I'm probably getting ahead of myself. I need the elder one to stop separating her food and the younger one to grow some molars before I fantasise about culinary adventures with my children.

Annie Ho is a board governor of Bring Me A Book Hong Kong bringmeabook.org.hk

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