Baby 411 exclusive interview with Uchi chef/author Tyson Cole: How to get kids to eat their veggies!

Tyson Cole with Baby 411 Authors As parents we all struggle with getting our kids to eat vegetables or to branch out beyond beige food. Curious to know what an expert in the kitchen does for his or her kids? We are, too!

So, we asked Tyson Cole—James Beard nominated, Food and Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef” award winning chef /owner of Uchi and Uchiko/author of Uchi:The Cookbook and father to three young children— how he tackles this issue. Full disclosure: his professional chef wife, Rebekkah, also chimed in! What we learned: even professional chef parents can have a picky-eater child! (She doesn’t know what she’s missing. We’d be happy to eat her leftovers….)

Here is the full interview:

Q. What were the first solid foods you offering your kids when they were babies?

A. We started with organic yogurt mixed with rice and mashed in fruit.  The kids ate lots of cheesy eggs, too.  That is, except for our 10 month old, who seems to have an intolerance to anything from a cow. She likes tofu cooked in a seasoned chicken broth, peanut butter and agave toast, eggs, and all kinds of fruit.

Q. Did you make your own baby food?

A. With three kids, we are all about convenience. When we had time to prepare their baby food, we did. But, we NEVER stressed if we gave them something from a jar. We always opted for organic baby food, but we tasted it first and added whatever seasoning it needed.

Q. Did your kids protest veggies when they became toddlers? Did you just continue to offer them, sneak them in, or use any creative strategies?

A. Our oldest child is the “picky eater” in our family, although she’s getting less and less picky as she gets older.  We just kept putting veggies on her plate and told her she had to try one bite and that was all but, she had to try it every meal.  No pressure or rewards for cleaning the entire plate. And yes, I have been known to puree veggies and add them to different sauces for various dishes.

Q. What’s the secret to making veggies taste good and look appealing to a toddler?

A. Lots of colors and dips.  We’ll mix yellow or orange bell peppers with golden raisins, clementines, sunflower seeds or slivered almonds, with juice from half a lemon, grapeseed or olive oil, and sea salt.  Our kids love it!

Or, we’ll cut different crunchy veggies into sticks and serve it in a pretty glass with a citrus vinaigrette dressing for dipping (very popular).  We offer a variety of raw veggies to try.

Our kids will also eat kale, believe it or not. Kale chips are pretty easy to make. Just roast torn pieces with olive or grapeseed oil, a little salt, and any other spices that are appealing.

My best piece of advice is to be creative and think like a kid!

Q. Any other secrets or take home tips for parents?

A. Here are a few:

1. Start a veggie/herb garden even if you don’t have a lot of room. Let your children plant, tend, and harvest (with your help, of course).

2. Get your kids in the kitchen. Cook and bake with them!  Let them help be part of the creative process.  We bake several different kinds of muffins and we add our “secret” (sounds more appealing than “healthy”) ingredients.

3. Have pizza night!  Put out lots of fresh veggies, greens, herbs, cheeses, spices/seasonings, and let them go to town.

4. Have cleaned fruit and veggies out on the counter. We snack on them while we work together in the kitchen. It helps take the “eat your veggies!” pressure off when it comes time to sit down and eat.


Thanks for all these great tips, Tyson and Rebekkah!

Tyson Cole is the chef/owner of Uchi and Uchiko restaurants in Austin, TX.  A meal at either place is worth the trip to Austin.

His first cookbook, called Uchi: The Cookbook, is available in bookstores and online March 1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *