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Leafy greens and other veggies can be as important to a child’s intelligence as sleep and physical activity. But sometimes these veggies can be a hard sell. Here are some magical ways to make them a welcome addition to mealtime.


Once upon a time there was a very smart cookie in the kitchen. She fed her kids green veggies, and they were happy.

No, this is not a fairy tale, but it does require a little culinary magic. Greens – especially dark leafy greens, broccoli and beans –go straight our children’s heads, literally. Like Jack’s beanstalk, they sprout from the ground carrying gigantic amounts of elements that are golden to a kid’s developing intelligence, mood and memory, from essential vitamins to folic acid.

The challenge, as many moms know, is that while good for the brain, these veggies aren’t always great on young taste buds. To many children, they may be overwhelming or bitter and this makes them a hard sell.

Fortunately, making these veggies taste super is not too tall a task. Let’s explore the benefits these brainy veggie have on young wits and a few magical ways to get them into tiny tummies – without the kids having a cow.

Better Foods + Kids = Brighter Moods

When it comes to smart veggies, the rule of thumb is to go green and think B.

Folic acid, vitamin B and natural glucose-containing carbohydrates feed our brains, which require a steady diet of glucose to operate. By delivering these nutrients, veggies such as spinach, kale, leafy greens and green beans help the brain grow new brain cells, improving memory and maintaining happy moods.

In addition to greens, many lettuces, broccoli and even herbs such as rosemary carry folates and vitamin B9, which are believed to assist in the renewal of red blood cells. Other veggie benefits:

Spinach: Popeye’s go-to also slows the effects of aging on the brain, according to reports, so it can prevent or delay dementia.

Rosemary: The fragrant herb contains flavonoids in its scent that stimulate cerebral blood flow, improving memory and concentration.

Broccoli: This cruciferous super food is a bounty of nutrients from beta-carotene and calcium to iron and vitamin K. Together, they fight free radicals, improve blood flow and filter out heavy metals that can damage the brain.

Green beans: These little gems contain enough folate to help regulate mood, sleep and even appetite. They also have been shown to reduce depression, for happier meal times.

Red cabbage: OK, this fella isn’t green, but we’re making it an honorary greenie since it packs polyphenol, a powerful antioxidant that benefits the brain and heart.

Clever Is Served

It does not take a rocket scientist or a big, bad giant to deliver brain food to kids, but it may take some creative thinking. Following are a few smart ways to make brain food yummy.

  • Spinach cakes: Mix spinach with a little banana and whole wheat flour and you’ve got Popeye pancakes, which are good for dinner or breakfast. Spinach also is an easy add-in to fruit smoothies and lasagna and can be yummy creamed.
  • Broccoli tots:These baked darlings combine broccoli with cheese and a bit of parsley for a healthy alternative to fried foods. An all-natural dip would be a perfect pairing.
  • Kale and green bean chips: The healthiest veggie chips do not come in a bag. Simply cut the kale leaves from the stems and ribs, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt and bake. Green beans can similarly be made into crunchy chips. (Optional add-on: Parmesan cheese.)
  • Cabbage fruit slaw: Call it veggie introduction by deconstruction. Shredded red cabbage looks more welcoming than whole leaves, and combines well with mango, mandarin oranges, blueberries and strawberries. It’s a sweet, smart salad with a nice crunch.
  • Rosemary: Stay with us here, but if you have not tried rosemary mixed in vanilla ice cream, then it is time. Rosemary also is lovely on toast with butter or infused in oil.
  • Dip and play: Moms have been using dips as veggie delivery systems for generations. Create meal “kits” with veggies, dips, tortillas, cheese and toothpicks and encourage the little ones to design their own veggie-ventions. You’ll be surprised.

Lastly, be sure to pair veggies with foods kids love. Blueberries, nuts, avocado, salmon and beans are all brain foods that, when eaten in combination, will boost a veggie’s ability to increase brainpower. That’s what we call mealtime magic.

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1 Comment
  1. Sharon 1 year ago

    Veggies and fruits – that’s the main food for a healthy and happy child. You can always turn it into a game to make your child eat it’s veggies 🙂

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Heather Young is a Cincinnati-based natural food scientist.

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