It is important to instill healthy eating habits for your child starting at a young age. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables allows children to improve their vitamin and mineral status, support healthy growth and weight maintenance, and allow them to feel energized throughout the day. Frequent exposure of new vegetables helps children learn to try new foods overtime without feeling pressured. It is however important to make meal times fun, trying new ways to prepare vegetables and allowing all family members to enjoy a well balanced meal. Boiled or steamed vegetables do not often give off the best appearance, taste, or smell, but some new preparation methods can have the whole family looking forward to this nutrient dense food group.
- Veggie “Fries”. Zucchini Sticks, Carrot Fries, Sweet Potato Fries are all great side items and roasting these vegetables allows their natural, caramelized flavors to come forth. These veggies also have a crunchy texture and can be fun dipped in ketchup or mustard.
- Vegetables in the Main Dish. Add chopped veggies to soups and chili or mix into a tomato sauce, taco meat, or a meat loaf. These extra nutrients will go a long way. You can also make a quiche with chopped vegetables ahead of time and freeze it for a quick weeknight meal.
- Try with Dip. Raw veggies on their own have a great texture and crisp flavor. Instead of boiling them, serve raw with a fun dip. Cucumbers go great with plain Greek yogurt, red peppers dipped in hummus or Italian dressing, and Broccoli with a light ranch.
- Take advantage of spices. Instead of adding cheese or butter sauces to vegetables for flavor, roast or stir fry them with unique spices such as garlic, rosemary, basil, or cinnamon.
- Try something new. Vegetables can often be used in a completely new way. Cauliflower for example can be mashed with skim milk or roasted as tater tots, taking the same appearance and texture as mashed potatoes. Spaghetti squash can replace pasta for your next dinner topped with tomato sauce and meatballs.
- Taste the rainbow. Share with your children why it is important to eat a variety of colors, since each colored fruit and vegetable gives your body a unique benefit. Green promotes healthy eyes and vision, orange and yellow boost your immune system to keep you from getting sick, purple and blue foods help with memory and learning, and red helps maintain a healthy heart.
Involve your child in the shopping, preparation, and taste testing to help them love to try new foods. What are some of your favorite ways to eat vegetables?