I had no idea how good we had it. When my daughter Jesse was a baby, she devoured everything my husband and I fed her. We marveled at her omnivorous appetite and bragged about how she ate her veggies without fussing. But that magical culinary era was much, much too short-lived.
Once she turned two, Jesse started turning up her nose at anything remotely healthy-looking or exotic. Now, five years later, she remains a picky eater, but there is one good-for-you food she will still happily munch: edamame.
Why? As a toddler, Jesse loved how “edamame” sounds like “mommy,” so we dubbed the vitamin-packed soybeans “edamommy.” And why not? Researchers have determined that calling food by a catchier name actually makes it more appealing to young children. According to a 2009 Cornell University study, four-year-olds who were told that ordinary carrot sticks were “X-ray-vision carrots” ate almost twice as many. Amazingly, once the name stuck, the kids continued to eat more carrots than usual, even when they weren’t being called by the superhero name. So, if “edamommy” doesn’t do the trick for your kids, just come up with something else, like “power pods”!
But there’s another selling point for edamame that has nothing to do with labels: You can eat it with your hands. Jesse loves using her fingers to pop the beans out of their pods, and while she has mastered the art of shooting the beans across the room, she generally aims right for her mouth so she won’t miss even one salty morsel.
A staple in Asia, edamame is packed with vitamins, minerals and all nine amino acids. The baby soybeans are also the only legumes that provide a complete protein. Of course, I don’t praise edamame’s health benefits when talking to my kids, but I do tell them how power pods provide superhuman energy. I love watching Jesse and her four-year-old sister, Ruby, as they proudly compare their muscles and show how high they can jump after downing a plateful of edamommy.
The wonder bean even fits neatly into my dinner theme nights, which I recently inaugurated to encourage Jesse and Ruby to try new foods. On almost any given evening, “it’s a small world” at our house: Current themes include Breakfast for Dinner, Classic American, Mexican, Italian and Japanese. No, we don’t dress up in kimonos or sit cross-legged on the floor on Japanese night, but we do eat Japanese food—generally chicken teriyaki, white rice and, of course, edamame. For the full-on cultural experience, we discuss Japanese traditions and practice doing origami after dinner.
If theme nights seem like too much of a Disney production, you can always count on Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. Seriously, the two TV characters now decorate packages of Seapoint Farms frozen edamame. And if Dora and SpongeBob like edamame, odds are good that your kids will be pod-popping machines before you know it.
What food are you trying to get your kids to eat? Chime in below!