Healthy eating is a constant struggle at my house. Every night, I put a home cooked, healthy meal on the table and every night my children fuss and cry and pick at their food or outright refuse to eat. Although I’ve always tried to provide healthy meals and snack options, somehow chips, crackers, cookies and candy have become my children’s preferred food groups.
According to the guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. My kids love fruit so that part is easy, but getting them to eat enough vegetables every day can be hard. The daily recommended amount of vegetables for a 2-3 year old child (1200 calorie diet) is 1.5 cups, for a 4-8 year old child (1400 calorie diet) is 1.5 cups and for a 9-13 year old child (1800 calorie diet) is 2.5 cups. Most days my family falls woefully short of these guidelines. Some days when I think back on what my children have eaten, I don’t think a single vegetable made it into their mouths.
If your kids are like mine, somewhat lacking in the vegetable department, here are a few creative ideas to help sneak in a few extra veggies every day.
- Blend into a smoothie. Add a handful of spinach or grated carrots to a fruit smoothie for a serving a veggies that the kids won’t notice.
- Bake into bread. Bake shredded zucchini into bread or muffins for a sweet treat with a serving a veggies.
- Top a pizza. Let the kids make their own personal pizzas. Offer a variety of topping choices including several different veggies.
- Dip it. Kids love to dip things. Provide hummus or natural peanut butter with a plate of raw veggies for the kids to dip into and enjoy.
- Blend into sauce. Blend squash, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc. into your favorite marinara sauce.
- Give them a fun name. Roast cauliflower with olive oil and garlic salt to make cauliflower “popcorn.” Thinly slice sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, season to taste and bake to make healthy “fries.” “Bugs on a log” just sound fun to eat. Make these fun snacks by spreading peanut butter on celery or carrots and topping with a few raisins.