It is a common problem amongst parents that they try to get their children to eat more fruits and vegetables, but with little success. Though it is nothing to be concerned about initially, it is something that could be worked on so that the children can live a healthy life. Since children eat what they get used to, one of the best things that can be done is help them to consume a more nutritious diet by implementing fruits and vegetables into their normal lives as much as possible.
Why Our Kids Really Need Fruits And Vegetables
Studies have shown that children who eat more fruits and veggies grow not only healthier but also less susceptible to obesity and Type 2 diabetes as children. They also learn to crave healthier foods and aren’t exposed to addicting substances like sugar, salts, and processed oils. Healthier foods also help children focus more clearly in school, improving their overall mood and natural energy and they don’t even provoke stimulation like caffeine, sugar and artificial flavorings in processed and junk food.
Here are some ideas that one can implement in your children’s routine to help them ingest or consume more fruits and veggies today, starting from today.
Start With Smoothies
Kids love smoothies and surprisingly, they love fruit and veggie smoothies since they are pretty and have attention-grabbing quality. These smoothies can be also mixed with chia seeds, hemp seeds, and even plain almond butter or natural peanut butter.
The steps to make a kid-friendly smoothie: Put one cup of non-dairy milk into the blender, as it contains more calcium than cow’s milk and has lower inflammatory properties. Next add 1 cup of spinach, ½ a frozen banana, 1 cup of frozen berries, a tablespoon of chia or hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon of ground flax and 1 tablespoon of natural almond butter or peanut butter. Blend with a handful of ice and serve.
Other ideas: Mix in fruits like pineapple and veggies like frozen broccoli which will go unnoticed when added with fruits or even slices of zucchini or some baby carrots.
Make A Scrumptious Sauce
Tomato-based sauces like marinara or even homemade tomato salsa are recipes that can be added in pureed zucchini, carrots or even garlic and onions if your child can tolerate it. You can also include red peppers, finely chopped spinach, and roasted corn kernels in your sauce. Sneak in some cauliflower into low-fat Alfredo sauce without any dairy or cream. Other sauce ideas can be hummus made with tahini, chickpea, red peppers and lemon juice, where finely chopped spinach or parsley can be added or a homemade guacamole sauce made with tomatoes, onions, avocado, peppers and lime juices, which is a great source of healthy fats.
Make A Healthy Pizza
Since kids love pizza and tomato sauce is a naturally healthy food used as a base, so the next step will be to ascertain what kind of crust and toppings the child wants to choose from if the pizza is homemade. Some great ideas to make a pizza healthier can be by using sprouted grain tortilla as the crust or a non-dairy vegetarian crust that is made with whole grains like whole wheat or gluten-free grains. Next, take a no salt added tomato sauce so that the salt and high-fat oils can be eliminated.
You can also mix the tomato sauce with sweet potato puree or pureed butternut squash so that the sauce becomes thicker and naturally sweeter. You can use nutritional yeast instead of dairy cheese for toppings, as it is full of vitamin B12 and is a great source of protein. Sliced olives, red bell peppers or even slices of raw zucchini can be added in place of meat as well as diced carrots, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and even some chopped baby spinach if you can manage to sneak that in.
Make Fun Snacks
You can pair up some baby carrots or grape tomatoes with hummus. Also, you can create up a fun name for the snack that you like so that the kids will imitate you when they see you enjoying the said snack. The more the children see you eating the foods you prepare, the more inclined they are to eat them. Other healthy snacks can be natural peanut butter or even natural almond butter where we can pair it with strawberries and baby carrots, blueberries and baby carrots and sliced zucchini with a low-sodium salsa. Since kids like colorful foods, you can use that to your advantage when trying to appeal to the kids to try out fruits and veggies.
Add To Oatmeal
Frozen or fresh fruits are easy to add to oatmeal recipes and oatmeal too is a wonderful breakfast choice for kids as it has high levels of fiber, protein, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium. Choose rolled or whole grain quick oats for children as well as add in ½ a cup of fruit or even some unsweetened applesauce and pumpkin puree, to make it more appealing to children. You can also sweeten the oatmeal further by putting a tablespoon of unsweetened raisins and a pinch of cinnamon instead of sugar.
Include Veggies at Every Single Meal
The more kids are exposed to fruits and vegetables, the more chances of them eating them even if they get a little slow catching on. Put out fresh or frozen fruits and veggies at every meal no matter what. Save any leftovers that they won’t eat and try again later. Also, you can tell children some trivia about the fruits and veggies they are served that will capture the kid’s attention.
Replace Unhealthy Foods With Fruits And Veggies
As humans, we are naturally inclined to reach towards the most calorie-dense, concentrated foods just because they give us a quick hit of dopamine, triggering instant pleasure. But once the dopamine wears out, we suffer from cravings, fatigue, headaches and become hungry all over again. Instead, place a platter full of colorful fruits and vegetables as their main meal, making it seem as a healthier option from an early age. For the main meal, you can choose something healthy like plant-based proteins, instead of meat-based proteins, like chickpeas, quinoa, oatmeal or sprouted grain bread.
Replace Mayo With Veggie Mayo
Mayo contains egg yolk, oils or processed oils, making them lower in cholesterol levels where none of these ingredients are healthy for children to let them ingest it every day. Even dairy-free and vegan mayo are full of vegetable oil which contains many health risks. So instead of using all these, you can choose alternatives like hummus, mustard, salsa or even homemade mayo with a sneaky serving of veggies. Greens like romaine, tomatoes, grilled or fresh zucchini, sliced carrot rounds, avocado slices or some black bean spread. Avoid cheese as it can be hard to digest and is also high in fat and cholesterol per serving.
Make A Fun Stir-fry
A healthier way to make stir fry can be to use pre-cooked red or brown lentils instead of meat. This will be a great way to sneak in more fiber, minerals, and protein into you and your children’s meals. For veggies, sliced red peppers, zucchini rounds or slices, mushrooms, onions, grated carrots can be added. This mixture can be cooked in low-sodium veggie broth in place of oil on medium heat and sauté it just like you would with a regular stir fry. Top it over brown or wild rice and serve.
Children will love the color in their stir-fry meals, thus giving them healthier options to choose from. If you want to add more flavor, you can choose salt-free options like chili powder, salt-free all-purpose seasoning or even Mrs. Dash, which is used for commercial purposes and still salt-free. Or regular herbs and spices that the child can tolerate can be added.
Make A Healthy Spaghetti
Most pasta products sold at stores are low in nutrition but high in calories, thus not benefitting your child. It’s healthier counterparts are now available in stores, especially for children that cannot tolerate grains, for e.g. 100% whole grain sprouted spaghetti or even red lentil spaghetti. Cook the pasta and serve it with a veggie induced sauce. One example can be no-salt-added tomato sauce mixed with grated carrots, mushrooms, oregano, chopped broccoli florets and even carrot or butternut squash puree.
Tomato sauce is an easy sauce to sneak into any veggie because of its deep color, just make sure that it only contains tomatoes and not oil or salt. If more flavor is needed, use a no-salt-added vegetable broth while cooking the sauce with added veggies. Sauté the uncooked veggies in a pan with the broth and mix them with the tomato sauce to warm. Serve it over the pasta of your choice and enjoy. For dessert, choose bananas, apple slices, and berries and place them in a parfait glass. Top it off with healthy fats for children like a tablespoon of natural peanut or almond butter.
The Bottom Line
No matter the tricks you use to make your children eat fruits and veggies, the best way to ensure that they do is when they are cooked at home. From there, you can try your best by eating the same foods they do, while sharing their benefits when eating. It is also great if the children take part in the cooking process and asking their help to make some of the meals with you.