Jun 17, 2010

Kids Don't Eat Veggies? Try Malunggay

This Filipino mom has a confession to make: I don't eat vegetables.

No excuses for it; I just don't. Can't blame my parents: my brother and sister eat the green stuff. So do my kids.

But I don't. Can't stand them.

There are two exceptions to the rule, though -- two vegetables I can and do eat: the saluyot and the malunggay (moringa oleifera).

Well, I must be terribly lucky, because the malunggay has been hailed as a "super vegetable":

“…among the leafy vegetables, one stands out as particularly good. It is the horseradish tree, Moringa oleifera. The leaves of the tree are outstanding as a source of vitamin A and, when raw, vitamin C. They are a good source of B vitamins and among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high for a plant. Phosphorus is low, as it should be. The content of iron is very good. They are an excellent source of fat and carbohydrates. Thus, these leaves are one of the best plant foods that can be found.” Martin, F.W. R.M. Ruberte, and L. Meitzner. 1998. Edible Leaves of the Tropics, 3rd ed.; available via ECHONet.org.
For me, one special benefit of the malunggay is that it's high in iron, and it -- for some reason -- stimulates milk production. This is very advantageous to me as I am a stalwart breastfeeding advocate, and I practice what I preach.

In our house, we add it to tinola (chicken soup), and it gives the soup a creamier taste. The leaves can also be dried and powdered, apparently without losing their nutritional value!

If your children don't like to eat vegetables like ahem, you can add malunggay leaves to hamburger patties, noodle soups (Lucky Me did); and the direct-marketing company First VitaPlus has made a whole business of products fortified with malunggay, from fruit juices to macaroni soup to champorado (chocolate-flavored rice porridge), among others. I've tried those three products, and they taste pretty darn good! No hint of vegetable whatsoever. (And to be clear, this is NOT a paid post.)

Luckily, the malunggay is prolific in the Philippines. We pick our daily dose from a vacant lot at the end of our street. You can just as easily grow a tree in your backyard from cuttings. My aunt, the greenthumb, informs me that the more you harvest from the tree, the more the branches and leaves proliferate.

For more information, check out the Wikipedia article on the malunggay.

Do YOU have any tips on encouraging kids (or moms) to eat veggies? Please feel free to share!

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