Spring is here, and you will start to see more fresh produce at your local grocery store and farmer’s market. This is the perfect time to talk to your kids about the benefits of fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with the nutrients your kids need to grow and to be healthy. Here are some ideas to get your kids excited about incorporating fruits and vegetables into their meals.
1. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables. Include fruits and veggies that your kids enjoy at every meal and offer generous helpings.
2. Be a positive role model. Be sure to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet. If your kids see you model positive behaviors, they are more likely to follow them.
3. Mix it up. Eating the same old plate of steamed veggies can be boring, so offer a variety of options. Try different cooking methods, such as roasting with herbs or sautéing with garlic.
4. Include veggies at breakfast. Make a breakfast smoothie with spinach or carrots, fill omelets with a rainbow of diced veggies, or serve toast topped with avocado.
5. Make caterpillar kabobs. Let your kids assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange and pear on skewers. For a vegetable version, use zucchini, cucumber, peppers or tomatoes.
6. Pack fruit in lunchboxes. Fruit is a good way to add a natural sweetness to the lunch meal. Include an apple, tangerine, orange, kiwi, grapes, banana, plum or berries to your child’s lunch. Fruit is “nature’s candy.”
7. Add vegetables to sandwiches. Serve your kids a healthy sandwich with whole-grain breads, lean meats, cheese and plenty of vegetables. Good ideas are tomato, onion, spinach, shredded carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, lettuce, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, or avocado slices.
8. Make “delicious dippers.” Kids love to dip their foods. Cut up some broccoli, carrots or broccoli and let kids dip them into yogurt or hummus.
9. Try personal pizzas for dinner. Set up a pizza-making station and let kids assemble their own pizzas. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread for the crust. Let kids top the pizzas with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of cut-up vegetables. Pop in the oven or microwave to warm.
10. Fire up the grill. Try grilling yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes on a kabob. Brush them with olive oil to prevent them from drying out. You can also grill fruits such as peaches, pineapple or mango for a fun dessert.
11. Incorporate veggies into other foods. Add mushrooms to your favorite meatloaf recipe, shred carrots into spaghetti sauce, mix tomatoes into a casserole, or fold butternut squash into mac and cheese.
12. Encourage your kids to try new flavors. Ask your kids to try one new fruit or vegetable this week. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try at the grocery store or farmers market.
If these efforts don’t immediately change your children’s eating habits, don’t be discouraged. It can take several times of being exposed to a new food before many kids will try it. Don’t force your kids to eat something, because that generally backfires and leads to negative feelings about food. Continue to make fruits and vegetables a part of every meal and be sure to eat them yourself. Eventually your kids will start to try them and will learn to enjoy them as part of a healthy diet.
Try the recipe below as an alternative to popsicles in the upcoming summer months:
Frozen Fruit Cups
16 ounces strawberries
12 ounces orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 (20 ounce) cans crushed pineapple, undrained
2 (11 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, undrained
6 bananas, diced
1/3 cup lemon juice
16 ounces blueberries
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
Portion in 1-cup increments, and allow to freeze overnight.
Place in lunch box in the morning, and will be a slushy consistency by lunch time