RFS Board Member Genevieve Patterson is charged with making sure her six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son get the nutrients they need. As any parent knows, this is often no easy task. However, Genevieve has a few tricks up her sleeve and shares some clever approaches, from sneaking the good stuff into things her kids already like (cauliflower in brownies!) to establishing family mantras and initiating dialogues that encourage open minds and healthy behaviors.
Over the past few weeks, Genevieve has also logged boo-coo hours helping us strategize and spread the word about VegOut!, our call to action for Houstonians to eat their veggies in March for National Nutrition Month. She took the lead to bring VegOut! to River Oaks Elementary, where the principal, faculty and staff are VeggingOut! and students are front and center in the veggie conversation.
When you're not busy being a super mom, board member and volunteer, what are you up to?
My husband and I love having dinner parties or Sunday dinners for friends and family, traveling, exercise of any kind, especially if it's outside, and I'm a soccer fanatic!
What kind of eaters are your kids?
My two children have varying food interests. My son loves just about everything except fruit (it's a textural thing), but my daughter is a bit more particular. Specific to veggies, he'll try them all, cooked any way, but she really only likes them raw. So, I follow several common covert methods to ensure she is getting the right mix: smoothies and finely chopped veggies added to proteins (like in tacos) and baked goods (zucchini muffins). Fortunately, one of our all-around family favorites is kale. Kale, apples, banana, juice/water, agave and ice blended together make what we call the "Super Hero Smoothie" - it's a fun neon green color and tastes delicious!
What's your approach to guiding your kids' food habits?
Common conversations in our house center around two themes: balance and giving everything a chance. Often when my kids ask for a treat, my first question is, "What other treats have you had today?" If they have already had something sweet, we talk about keeping a good balance. This usually averages out to having only one sweet per day. And when they are given something they don't think they like, the golden rule is that you must try it! We have even added a bonus to their weekly allowance for trying new things (foods, experiences, attitudes, etc).
Do you involve your kids in shopping for or preparing meals?
They do love going to the farmers market and seeing what's available. Regular grocery shopping is not their favorite thing to do. And they are great helpers in the kitchen. My son can crack a mean egg and if there's a noodle involved, my daughter is happy to help.
What does VegOut! mean to you?
I love the idea of a whole community of people striving for such a delicious goal! And since I'm a competitive person, I like the added incentive of the contest. My family can't wait for it to start. We've even had a "prep" night making veggie soup for dinner.
Why do you think this initiative is important?
Challenging individuals to expand their palate is always a good thing in my mind. Life is so busy, and sometimes it's just easier to prep your "go-to" meal or just pick up your favorite take-out. Asking people to stop by the produce aisle or market veggie stall when they usually just walk past can only lead to good things!
How did you approach the principal of your children's school to get her to VegOut?
I barely had the words out of my mouth before the principal agreed to do it! It's easy to recognize that veggies + kids is a good combo. So, I really didn't have to do too much persuading. And when the students are motivated, it helps the faculty and staff stay involved too.
Tell me a little about what River Oaks Elementary is doing to VegOut!.
Three times a week the student council will highlight a veggie by reading a fun food fact during the daily announcements. We are also having two contests: Veggie Dress Up Day and Rock Your Veggies - a song writing competition.
What's your game plan for your family to VegOut!?
Well, I plan on digging through my cookbook collection for veggie-heavy recipes, as well as checking out the Veggies A-Z recipes on the VegOut! site. I'll also look for baked goods, new smoothie recipes and different ways for us to consume our 30 veggies. We'll definitely take a few trips to the farmers market in Houston and while traveling over spring break. Hitting the local veggie markets is a great way to get a feel for a new town you are traveling through.
Any tips for getting kids to eat their veggies?
You can put ANYTHING in a brownie, and they'll eat it! Puree 1/2 cup veggies, such as cauliflower, zucchini, or beets and add to the batter. After they eat every crumb, you can then decide whether to tell them what was in it!
Check out our rockin' Beet Brownies recipe here.
Advice for other parents who want to create change in their schools?
Once you have the right person's attention, come well prepared with attainable ideas and enthusiasm. Listen to what the school really needs and be flexible in implementing a solution.