Close-up of smiling girl with plate of veggies in front of her

I always liked veggies, even as a child. Mom often served them with pasta, such as pasta with cauliflower or peas. Or she breaded and fried eggplant or zucchini. We also enjoyed them in omelets, especially peppers and onions. The vegetables never came with a sustainability lesson but they should be served with that insight today.

One thing that I did not enjoy when I was little was broccoli. Mom served it “Italian style.” That means large, crunchy pieces including the stem dressed with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. I thought they looked like large crunchy trees. Blech!

I think the big pieces of broccoli along with its crunchy texture and the lemony tang made the dish unappealing for a small child. There has to be a better way to get children to eat veggies.

This reminded me of a conversation that I had with my supervisor and walking partner, Sister Noreen. She didn’t like vegetables when she was a child, so her mom had to be creative to entice her and her siblings to eat them. Her mom’s solution was something that she called “veggies and mash.”

Her mom’s version of “veggies and mash” was a small amount of boiled vegetables — for instance, carrots — mixed in with mashed potatoes and topped with a little butter and salt. Another friend’s mother would add lima beans, corn, and butter to a baked potato — her version of “succotash.” Sounds good to me!

Mixing a few boiled veggies — or just the cooked, tender part like the broccoli tips — with mashed potatoes might be less intimidating to a small child. I think that most children like mashed potatoes, so this might be a good way to get them to eat vegetables — or to introduce a new one.

I also think this is a great way to use leftover vegetables to avoid food waste. Plus, you can easily use leftover veggies and mash in another meal. For instance, add breadcrumbs to the mix and fry some potato patties (the kids might like those!). Or you could add some broth and make a comforting soup.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.