And no, you don't need to puree vegetables and sneak them in the kids' food -- unless you want to. I do that sometimes just to increase the nutritional value of dishes for myself, but I don't hide it from the kids. I tell them what's in there, so they know they can count on me to provide food they like.
Follow these tips, and you'll soon find your family eating vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner:
- Start at the beginning of the day.
If you can get a vegetable serving in at breakfast time, you're one-fifth of the way toward the recommended minimum of five fruits and vegetables a day. Plus, you are giving the kids a healthy start to the day.
My scrambled eggs with vegetables are a good choice. This recipe can be made with whatever leftover vegetables you happen to have in your crisper. Start with vegetables you know the kids already like and chop them finely, so they aren't overpowering to the kids.
- Vegetables are more than just broccoli and salad.
Sure, green veggies are nutritional powerhouses, but that doesn't mean you can't get some serious health benefits from other, lesser appreciated vegetables. Think beans, onions and sweet potatoes.
I like to make roasted chickpeas as a snack for the kids after school. They become crunchy, almost like nuts, when they're roasted, and they're full of protein, fiber, vitamins and iron. And my sweet potato fries taste like they're bad for you, but they're loaded with vitamin A and other vitamins.
- Drink your vegetables.
I used to say that if vegetables tasted like milkshakes, the world would be an easier place for moms. That was my inspiration when I created this green smoothie recipe. It combines pineapple and green grapes with baby spinach, so that the sweetness of the fruit offsets any bitterness you might taste from the spinach. The pineapple juice is also incredibly sweet and naturally appeals to kids.
Try my other green smoothie, made with kale, too. It's just as tasty, and kale is just loaded with vitamins and minerals.
- Go raw.
You don't have to fuss over making vegetables for kids. In fact, many kids like the taste of raw vegetables even better than cooked. My carrot sticks with peanut butter make a great after-school munchie. Or try peeling and thinly slicing raw sweet potatoes. They taste almost like carrots, and they're uber healthy.
- Dip them.
Vegetable dips are often so creamy that kids forget the vegetables in them. Hummus is a snap to make, and kids can eat it with everything from pita bread to raw carrots and celery. My black bean dip is another creamy favorite. I like to serve that dip for Halloween with carrot sticks for a black-and-orange themed snack.
- Fry them.
I know you probably think this is a horrible suggestion. But the truth is frying a food only adds fat to it. It doesn't take away from that food's nutritional value. My fried Brussels sprouts taste as good as any boardwalk French fries, and, of course, they are far healthier. Think about it: What would you pay to hear the kids beg you for more Brussels sprouts? That's the reaction you'll get when you make this recipe, and it is truly a priceless parenting moment.
- Opt for fruit if they won't eat vegetables.
Fruits may not have the phytonutrients you'll find in green, leafy vegetables. But they do have an advantage that green veggies don't: They're sweeter and, therefore, more naturally appealing to kids. And fruits do have many of the same nutritional benefits of other vegetables: vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.
Any cut fruit or whole fruit is a good idea. Try expanding the kids' taste for fruits with my healthy smoothie recipes.
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