Cauliflower Kids


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Former chef Jo Fielder is no magician, but she knows how to make kids' objection to some foods disappear.

You could say it's a case of the vanishing vegies, but Jo calls it the "cauliflower conspiracy".

"Well, I personally don't have anything against cauliflower, but a lot of children do," she says. "Sometimes it's not the taste of it, but it's actually what it looks like, so it looks a bit foreign to them, and, especially at the ages of two to five, they tend to get a bit scared of things like that."

And she should know.

After spending six years working as a chef in a child care centre, Jo had just about seen it all.

"There'd be, whole tables full of children that would just sit there and pick out all the bits of vegetables and eat the stuff that they recognised and liked," she says.

Working mum Mel Sweeney knows the pain of a feeding a fussy eater all too well.

"He won't go there," says Mel. "And he won't even try. And that's what's so frustrating for me: that he won't even put it in his mouth."

Mel's four-year-old son Jackson flatly refuses her attempts to sneak vegies into his diet, on a regular basis.

"I didn't seem that tricky to me prior to being a parent. But when your child passionately sobs because they do not want that food and he looks at me and says: 'but I just need nuggets', I� heat them up."

Jane Bowen from the CSIRO's Human Nutrition Section understands the challenge.

"The range of vitamins and minerals and fibre that's in vegetables is really important for kids' health and development, particularly as they're growing so quickly at that age," says Jane.

She says parents shouldn't panic about their kids' eating habits.

"One of the things that kids are good at, is picking up on our stress levels. So do your best to stay calm. If they don't want to eat it, that's okay; they might just be a little bit more familiar with the look or the smell of it and present it again another time without too much fuss."

But that can be easier said than done.

"I have tried so hard to go out of my way to promote healthy eating," says Mel Sweeney. "I know about it, I'm in the industry of children's services, I know the theory. But with all my great intentions and all of my knowledge, when it actually comes down to the practicality, theory and practice? It's Mars and Venus."

That prompted Jo to send her cauliflower undercover.

"I decided that to get the nutrients into them I would puree it, and still leave some of the bits of vegetables as well, but the ones that would be picking it out would still be getting the nutrients."

And so, the conspiracy began.

Jo perfected her plan� and turned it into a reservoir of recipes.

"Basically anything I could think of hiding vegetables in, I did, so spaghetti bolognaise, risotto. We made lentil rolls which look like sausage rolls but was lentil and vegetables pureed. Anything that I could make look like safe food, I would put it in, so basically almost everything that I made.'

That led to a stampede of parents, all wanting a piece of the healthy eating pie.

"I think when all the parents were coming up to me and saying: 'how are you getting my child to eat your food?' and so what I did is I created a small recipe book, for all the parents, and they were finding that they were eating vegies at home, as well."

And now it's a cauliflower craze, with a book to match.

"I think that this book um is great for two things. One, it helps parents to have some strategies so that their kids will be getting some vegetables, and that puts parents' minds at ease. They will be getting some fibre and some vitamins and minerals. Secondly, it helps children get used to the taste of vegetables.

Jane has this handy advice for parents of fussy eaters:

  1. Don't give up. Persistence is paramount.

  2. Be patient. Allow your kids time to adjust to new tastes.

  3. Be a good role model.

  4. Be creative. Try serving vegies in different ways.

5: Involve your kids.

  1. Don't stress! (If in doubt, see tip No 2)

Jo Fielder's book "The Cauliflower Conspiracy" is available at most book stores or at