Does your son or daughter refuse to eat healthy vegetables? Many parents wonder if it makes sense to sneak those nutritional powerhouses into meals or if that teaches bad eating habits long term. The experts recommend using your creativity if you have to, and there are several ways to incorporate healthy eating habits that not only are good for your growing child but taste delicious, too!
Blend a Smoothie: a Healthy Treat
Smoothies are one of the best ways to treat a picky child to a healthy meal or snack. Packed with nutrients, blending a smoothie at home is the best way to make sure the smoothie has more health benefits than sugar or sugar substitutes. You can load up smoothies with spinach or avocado, kale or chard, and instead of adding sugar cut up a small apple for added sweetness. Or, try this online recipe that calls for a handful of spinach, a frozen banana, ½ of a small avocado, ¼ cup of unsweetened almond milk with a dash of cinnamon and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Blend and enjoy!
Add the Veggies to Dishes They Already Like
Although many kids dislike vegetables mainly because of their texture, often incorporating veggies into dishes they already enjoy makes good sense. If your son or daughter loves pasta already, try adding spinach or broccoli with their favorite sauce. Butternut squash puree added to cheese sauce is yet another way to add a bit of yummy sweetness to the dish, adding nutritional value too. Also, it’s important to let your child know what’s included in the dish. You may want to tell them after they’ve enjoyed that first bite or two, but letting them know helps them understand vegetables are not only healthy, but can taste great.
The Power of a Dip
There was a small survey done in 2013 at the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University and the findings won’t surprise you: only 31 percent of kids liked vegetables alone, while 64 percent liked a vegetable when it was given with a flavored dip. The good news is this teaches children to enjoy vegetables with a small amount of additional flavoring, and pairing healthy veggies with a cheese or ranch dip is easy to do. When running low on time and your kids need a snack, put out small carrots and hummus and you’ll be amazed how they will gobble it up!
Leafy Greens Rule!
Although consuming all veggies are beneficial, Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults and children over 9 eat one and a half to two cups of dark green vegetables per week. An article on eatright.org states that “nutrient-dense dark leafy greens are high in several vitamins and minerals, delivering vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium.” Want to know the best way to make these leafy greens “kid-friendly”? Sauté greens instead of boiling them, and add olive oil, onion, and garlic for flavoring. If you want your child to try collard or mustard greens, braise them at a low temperature and add a pinch of sugar at the end of cooking. If you’re child will eat a salad, add spinach or kale to the lettuce and enjoy.
Make Veggies Look Fun
There probably isn’t a parent on the planet that hasn’t tried making food look more fun for their child! “Ants on a Log” (celery/peanut butter/raisins), vegetables made to look like a face on their plate, and fondue dinners with vegetables for dipping all come to mind. If you’ve tried everything, there are companies now incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their juices and snacks. Believe it or not, one company has even created popcicles packed with veggies (EatPops). There aren’t too many kids that don’t love a popcicle on a hot summer day!
As parents, we understand the struggle to make sure your child’s diet is as healthy as possible. Hopefully some of these tips will help you incorporate more healthy vegetables, including dark leafy greens, into your family’s diet.
Dr. Kellow and Dr. Shaw are happy to discuss nutritional concerns with you and answer any questions that you may have about your child’s vegetable intake. Our number is 618-235-2311 and you can also learn more about our team at https://childcarephysicians.com/. We are here to help!