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Karen Ridings

Karen Ridings: Getting children to eat spinach

By Karen Ridings

Many kids say "yuck" when asked to eat spinach. You can lure your kids into eating spinach with a few simple tricks:

1) Share the history and nutritional value of this wonderful vegetable,
2) Try some new recipes.
3) Involve your children in the preparation!

Many people think of Popeye when they think of spinach. But, spinach goes farther back than this 1920s character. Spinach was grown over 2,000 years ago in the Middle East. The Persian word for spinach was "ispanai" or green hand. Spinach eventually made its way to America in 1806. Once Popeye got a hold of it, it became a very popular vegetable associated with strength. So tell your children that when they eat spinach, they are eating an ancient vegetable!

Spinach is jammed packed with important vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories and a good source of fiber, potassium, Vitamin A, and phosphorous. It also contains phytonutrients, iron, and calcium. Now you know why Popeye loved spinach.

Here are some tips for buying and storing spinach:

  • There are different varieties of spinach; crinkly "Savoy", flat leaf with spade shaped leaves, and semi-Savoy that is a cross between flat and crinkly.
  • All are good, but the flat leaf varieties are easier to clean.
  • When selecting fresh spinach, look for leaves that have a rich green color and a springy texture vs. wilting one.
  • Never purchase spinach that has a sour or musty smell.
  • If you are purchasing spinach in a bag, make a visual inspection to be sure the spinach looks fresh and has not passed the sell-by date.
  • Fresh spinach needs to be washed thoroughly and can be dried in a salad spinner. Ends can be trimmed.
  • Frozen spinach comes in chopped form or whole leaf form. Chopped form is fine if it is being combined with other ingredients but, look for the loose leaf frozen form if you are cooking and serving it just by itself.

Now it is time to get your recipe ideas together. Fresh spinach can be used in the following ways:

  • Mix spinach in a salad
  • Stir fry with a Chinese sauce
  • Sautee in olive oil with garlic and a little bit of salt and pepper
  • Mix in lentil or Italian soups
  • Cook in an omelet

Frozen spinach works well in casseroles, soups, lasagnas, quiches, and pies. Whole leaf frozen spinach can also be sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

Below are websites that list recipes that you might like to try! Just maybe your child will "Lick the spoon" when you serve spinach!

Source: University of Arkansas-Cooperative Extension Service Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Service

Karen A. Ridings, M.S., R.D., is a family consumer sciences agent located in Frederick County. She joined the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Frederick County office, in January 2008. As a registered dietitian and elementary education teacher, families have always been the primary focus of her career!  Email her at ridingsk@vt.edu


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