March's Health Genie: Healthy Kids

Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.

Dear Health Genie,

I grew up on the Standard America Diet (S.A.D.). Veggies to me meant salad composed mostly of iceberg lettuce or baked potatoes or canned peas. As an adult, I have broadened my horizons and now enjoy a variety of fruits and veggies. In contrast to my own childhood, I am trying to establish healthy eating habits for my kids while they are still young. Getting them to eat a variety of fresh fruits and veggies is important, but a tricky task. Do you have any tips for encouraging kids to eat more produce?

S.A.D. Mom

Dear S.A.D. Mom,

You are right that eating a variety of fruits and veggies is important. These foods are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that promote health. The USDA’s MyPlate suggests that kids, depending on gender and age, consume 1 to 3 cups of veggies per day and 1 to 2 cups of fruit.

As the weather warms up, and you begin thinking about planting a garden, involve your kids! Allowing them to help plan, plant, maintain and harvest from the garden is a great way to peak their interest in fruits and veggies. They will eat the products of their labor with pride, while feeling a connection to their food.

Involve them in meal preparation, as well, by letting them help you shop for and cook meals. Ask them to place one produce item of each color of the rainbow in the cart. This fun scavenger hunt will provide a variety of fruits and veggies for your household that may be used to create healthy and colorful meals. If you find yourself stumped when deciding what to do with the produce, simply browse City Market’s online recipes. City Market also offers Kids’ Cooking Classes  each month, where your kids can learn how to prepare simple, healthy meals.

One fun way to include colored fruits and veggies is to make pictures with them on the plate. For instance, when I was young, my grandmother announced that she had made Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy plates for my brother and me for lunch. We were delighted to find faces on our plates made out of veggies. Red pepper slices made the hair, cucumber slices made the eyes, carrot sticks the nose, and raisins made the smile. You can use veggies to make pictures of favorite objects or characters; add a side of cream cheese, peanut butter or hummus for dipping to add fat and protein to the meal. Another fun treat is “ants on a log.” Fill celery sticks with cream cheese, peanut butter or hummus, and place raisins along the stalk. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food!

If raw veggies are a tough sell, try lightly cooking them and mixing them into other dishes. For example, try incorporating veggies into scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, or lasagna. Sneaking veggies into favorite meals is likely to allow for smooth sailing at the dinner table.

One last way to incorporate fruits and veggies into your child’s diet is through fresh juices and smoothies. The sky is the limit when making smoothies and juices.  Spinach can easily be blended with berries, banana and juice to create a smoothie that your kids will love! Kale is naturally sweet and mixes well with carrots, cucumber, celery, and apple. Or, add super greens powder to apple cider. Super green powders are available in the Co-op’s Wellness Department and provide a simple way to boost nutrition in juices or smoothies. To learn more about incorporating vitamin rich greens into beverages, signup for our HealthyGreen Drinks class.

Luckily, kids are naturally pretty open-minded, so hopefully they will be eager to try new fruits and veggies if you employ these methods.  Doing so will prepare them for a lifetime of healthy eating!

The Health Genie

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