If you’re cringing, you’re not alone: Your friends have the same trouble with their kids, your nieces and nephews put up a similar fight, and your own parents claim you as a tot refused anything green. Research even backs this age-old dilemma. According to government reports, sixty percent of kids don’t eat enough fruits, and nine out of ten are skimping on their vegetables. To help get more greens (and reds and oranges on their plates), try these tips:
1. Let the kids pick their produce—and help with the prep.
Bring your youngsters to the grocery store or farmers market and have them choose the vegetable for dinner, or select a new fruit they want to try. At home, let them help wash what they bought, and ask for a hand in the preparation. Little ones can snap the peas, break florets off broccoli, or tear lettuce for a sandwich or salad; older kids can peel and slice.
2. Add fruits to favorite foods.
The combo may up the odds of consumption. Some ideas:
* Oatmeal fan? Stir in raisins, dried cranberries or fresh blueberries.
* Top a toaster waffle with a little low-fat yogurt and peach slices.
* Swap out the jelly for banana or apple slices in a peanut butter sandwich.
* Add slice of strawberries to a bagel with cream cheese.
3. Dip veggies.
One study showed preschoolers ate 80 percent more raw broccoli when served with dressing instead of plain. Give it a shot, and not only with broccoli, but also with carrots, celery, fruit slices and anything else your kids might like to dip in yogurt, hummus, salsa or even applesauce.
4. Mix mushrooms into burger meat.
Or try diced peppers in meatloaf, carrots in tomato sauce or fold grated zucchini into muffin batter to up your family’s veggie intake—likely without them even noticing. If you’re feeling more bold, swap out standard spaghetti for spiralized zucchini—these strands will twist just like pasta, and take less than a minute to cook in boiling water. Find more veggies that make great pasta substitutes here.
5. Swap bread on sandwiches.
Your little ones might get a kick out of eating peanut butter on apple rounds instead of whole wheat, cheese between pieces of pear, or a cucumber “sub”—a hollowed out cucumber filled with turkey, tuna or their favorite sandwich filling.
6. Dig out that blender…
and make your kids a fruit and veggie filled smoothie! Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana; or low-fat plain yogurt, blueberries, coconut water and ice; or orange juice and carrots, cooked beets into a berry concoction or spinach into a favorite fruit combo.