If we lived in a perfect world, all of our children and we would consume the daily recommended serving of five fruits and vegetables every day, but we don’t. As with many adults, getting kids to eat healthier is easier said than done. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get your family eating more nutritious foods.
• Offer vegetables every day. Children will not eat vegetables if you do not have them prepared and available to them.
• Allow children to help with the preparation of meals. When they do, allow them to create fun shapes with food. Children are more likely to eat what they prepare.
• Add vegetables to existing meals. For example, add lettuce to sandwiches. Add fruits like strawberries, blueberries and bananas to breakfast cereals and oatmeal.
• Serve vegetables alongside a dip children love as an appetizer before meals or as an after school snack.
• Offer vegetables to your children in a relaxed environment. Do not force, threaten, or punish children for not eating them. On the other hand, do not reward them when they do. These strategies could lead to overeating and weight gain. It also teaches children to eat when they are not hungry, and it interferes with the child’s natural ability to sense or know when they are full.
• Sneak healthy foods into childhood staples. Blend carrots with mashed potatoes; mix chopped broccoli into macaroni and cheese; layer zucchini in lasagna, or shred spinach into coleslaw (or spaghetti sauce). Good hiding places for vegetables include inside a tortilla wrap, under pizza cheese or at the bottom of a pita.
Most of us love desserts. Adding fruits and vegetables to them is a great way to make the dishes healthier and encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption. Here are some healthy dessert ideas:
• Layer berries, yogurt and whole-grain cereal to make a parfait.
• Make a no-bake cookie by combining a high-fiber cereal with raisins, peanut butter and just enough honey to hold it together. Shape into balls.
• Make a smoothie by blending low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
• Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and Granny Smith apples. Add a dash of cinnamon.
Don’t be discouraged by how little of a particular fruit or vegetable your child consumed. Remember children’s serving sizes are smaller than adults. A general serving guideline is one tablespoon of vegetables for each year of a child’s life. Also remember that children under age 2 need a higher level of calories from fats to support their growth and brain development and those should not be limited.
You can get more information about nutrition at the Bell County Extension office.
Rebecca Miller is the county extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Source: Debbie Clouthier, extension associate. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Source: Ingrid Adams, associate extension professor, eatright.org