Fighting the Fresh Veggie Fight

by Laura on February 14, 2013

in A Year in Our Kitchen 2013


We have a love/hate relationship with vegetables in our house.

It’s a fight. And, it’s a fight that I fight nearly every night.


As a bit of background . . .

When I became pregnant with my first child, I remember how all of a sudden, I took a look at what I was eating. No longer could a bowl of popcorn or nibbling from the fridge be the way to eat. I needed the right nutrients to feed that growing baby, and so I set forth with a resolve to do just that. Once, when my little boy arrived, I made a resolve to make sure I taught him all about eating well and to enjoy a variety of different foods, all the while instilling in him healthy eating habits – and the virtues of food– real food, that is.

To that end, we served up a delicious variety of meals, fed our baby what we ate (although mashed up at times). A major part of this effort was vegetables. During those early months of his life, I mashed carrots, sweet potatoes and pureed peas. When he moved from soft to solid foods, I continued my plight. He ate Brussels sprouts and broccoli, snacked on carrots and cucumbers, enjoyed peas and pickles as an afternoon snack, and always tried to incorporate vegetables into his daily diet.

I was lucky; he complied . . . with only minor resistance.

Nearly a decade later, and an additional three children, I am still promoting the vegetables. I still get some resistance — not only from my first born, but my second, third, and fourth. Their resistance varies, with #4 resisting the most.

I’ve tried the coaxing, cajoling, and threatening. Which is why, at times, I hate vegetables.

Looking back, I remember when I was a kid, and I didn’t always want to eat my vegetables. I guess I can understand why: I was part of the generation that accepted the canned vegetable as the nouveau way to enjoy them. Carefully cut into small pieces, then packed in a can with a bit of water, all Mom had to do was open it with a can opener and heat on the stove.

But, I can’t do that any longer. I just don’t like the flavor – or texture –  of canned vegetables. I am not even a fan of frozen vegetables (except the occasional corn kernel) even though I know there are studies that point to the possibility that frozen offers just as many nutrients as fresh vegetables.

But, for me, my persistence in the ‘eat-your-vegetables’ fight is less about nutrition, and more about taste, enjoyment, and experience. Yes, I want them to have their daily recommended allowance of veggies, but I want them to enjoy the full flavor of vegetables (and, food in general), and to realize their importance in the daily meal.

That’s why I haven’t succumbed pureeing them past the point of recognition and sneaking them into meals. That may mean that I will have a fight on my hands, but I am of the belief that children should know what a vegetable tastes like, know when they’re in season (for the most part) and whenever possible, see them grow from seedlings.

But, for a lot of consumers, the perceived cost of fresh fruits and vegetables (over canned or frozen) is one of the major reasons they don’t opt for fresh. (Convenience is another).

Many Americans are under the belief that fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than their canned or frozen varieties. But, a recent article appearing on the National Geographic News Watch, How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?, debunks that misconception. Here is a snippet from the article:

“Based on a study that surveyed the year 1999, Americans were spending more than $223 billion on all types of food purchased from retail stores. Of that $223 billion, only 7.6% was spent on fruit and only 7.7% was spent on vegetables. Of those percentages, more than half of the fruit and vegetable purchases were fresh and about a third was spent on canned vegetables or processed fruit juices.”

Further, “The study ultimately reviewed 69 forms of fruit and 85 vegetable forms. More than half cost less than $.25 per serving. Even on the higher end of the price scale, a cost for a serving of 86% of vegetables or for 78% of the fruits was less than $.50.” For a full comparison of the fresh versus canned price difference, visit the site for a great graphic.

A lot of this misperception has to do with marketing. For decades, companies have been marketing the idea that packaged vegetables and fruits are the answer for busy households. And, to a lesser extent, that these canned, bagged, and frozen options are more cost effective than the fresh versions of those fruits and vegetables.

At first blush, it seems to make sense from both a convenience and cost standpoint – as who has time to grow their own and can when the season ends. (Well, actually, home canning is up, driven by the weak economy and consumers’ need to look for ways to economize.) Who has time to peel and cut up vegetables for a snack or for dinner. (Granted, it does take more time, but peeling and chopping vegetables is so much more therapeutic than opening a can and dumping into a pot.)

In the end, you are paying more for that so-called convenience As the article cites, “At the end of the day, fresh fruits and vegetables are not more expensive than processed foods. The problem is that we, as Americans, tend to be wasteful and allow our fruits and vegetables to spoil before cooking. This makes it appear as though some of the canned and processed foods cost less, because we aren’t wasting as much in the process of preparing and discarding the inedible parts or allowing leftovers to go bad.”

[Time to do a it more planning on what to do to lesson that waste – stay tuned to next weeks’ Year in Our Kitchen post ]

With all of this said, I’m not saying that I don’t rely on the frozen corn or peas for a quick veggie addition to a chicken pot pie, or a deliciously cream risotto (and, frozen berries for use in a smoothie ), but on a daily basis, I’m taking up the veggie fight with the kids.: The Fresh Veggie Fight. Yes, it is a bit more work . . . yet it is a fight that I am willing to fight.

I know, that 20 years down the road, they will thank me for my persistence . . . because, they will know what a carrot looks like when it comes out of the ground — including that green stuff hanging off the top!





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