If you set the ketchup bottle on Claire’s side of the table at dinner, she protests that it is yucky, makes faces and carries on. I’m a pick-your-battles kind of mom, and she’s an imaginative kind of little girl. For all I know, she may be picturing a booby-trap-loaded Heinz bottle with her brother on the other side waiting to signal a remote-control device that will trigger something in the bottle to shoot out ketchup, thus causing the vile substance to spray the ceiling and drip drip drip onto her just-combed hair and freshly-pressed clothes (no doubt her favorite pink horse t-shirt) and possibly even smudge her french fry where it would then be at risk of entering her mouth… or, you know, something like that. She can weave quite a tale. At any rate, rather than try to adjust her attitude (or help her work through a somewhat justifiable fear of brother-designed remote-control booby traps), most of the time I just move the bottle.
I bring this up to say that Max and Claire have never really been dippers. Most of the time this suits me just fine. If you study the ingredients, most ketchups and other sauces are full of corn syrup and fillers, not exactly wholesome or appetizing stuff. Although I am personally hooked, I don’t think it’s worth working to get the kids to eat it. However, I am a fan of raw vegetables. I’m always looking for ways to get the kids to eat more of those.
The vegetable-eating trick you always hear other moms sharing is to offer the vegetables with some kind of dairy-laden dip, most usually ranch or some sour-cream or yogurt-based variation. I have tried a few knock-offs. Tofutti makes a dairy-free sour cream that is a good sub for some things, but it also has a dauntingly long list of fillers. Soy yogurt is pretty good, but the plain variety is hard to find. I eventually settled on hummus, which my husband and I love. By that point, I’d given up on the kids ever eating anything remotely plant like. I figured their loss, more for me.
The kids disinterest continued for weeks. Then when I was making dinner one night, I left the tray of veggies and hummus on the table for me to munch on while finishing the dinner preparations. When the kids began the nightly “when is dinner, I’m hungry” I referred them to the tray of veggies. It was a “Eureka” moment for me. I had taken away their excuse to complain that dinner wasn’t ready. Even if they never touched the veggies, which they didn’t at first, that was huge.
You can be sure that I kept putting out the veggies every night after that. I’m not certain at what point they actually deigned to munch on them; but we are now a couple of years into this experiment, and they are both regular raw veggie eaters. They still aren’t big fans of the hummus, but they pack away plenty of raw carrots, broccoli and grape tomatoes. They both have tried the hummus, and luckily Claire is less suspicious of it than of the ketchup bottle. I leave the vegetable tray on the table during dinner, and if they don’t like the vegetable served with dinner, the tray gives them some good options. Again, this leaves more asparagus and squash for me. Win. Win.
I often buy store-brand hummus (see photo), but when I have just a little more time this is my favorite hummus recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Red-Pepper-Hummus-1118.