Chef Jackie Newgent, RDN, shares her favorite tips for making veggies and fruits enticing to kids as the new school year kicks off.
It’s back-to-school time! What better time to give healthy eating a kick start. One of the most impactful ways to make a difference is to boost fruit and veggie intake.
In fact, adolescents in the U.S. currently have fruit just once a day and vegetables only 1.3 times a day.(1) So there’s plenty of room to have a positive impact on eating—and ultimately better health. When presented in new ways, fruits and veggies can be extra appealing to kids.
Try these simple, nutritious, and easily adaptable meal makeover tips throughout the day to give your kids’ eating plan a flavorful and fun update—most in just 60 seconds or less.
Start the day on the right foot. It’s easier than you think to include veggies as part of your morning routine.
Before: Plain eggs
The Makeover: Eggs are a terrific vehicle in which to incorporate vegetables, such as mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, and more. However, there’s not always time to prepare a fancy omelet with all of the fixings. Salsa counts as a veggie. So top scrambled eggs with a salsa of choice whether mild or hot.
Lettuce and lunch are perfect partners—especially when kids are involved in the prep.
Before: Iceberg lettuce leaf on a ham sandwich
The Makeover: Leafy lettuce greens provide an easy way to enjoy veggies. Stack a mixture of them high on a sandwich. Or if your school has a salad bar, have the kids visit it so they can create their own munchable salad bowlful for a school lunch entrée or side.
After- School Snack:
It’s not always about the food; it’s often the presentation of it that matters the most to kids.
Before: Green grapes
The Makeover: Add a fun factor when serving grapes. Simply freeze them and serve in a sundae dish for more dessert like appeal. Or insert a combination of red and green grapes onto skewers and freeze to create real grape popsicle kebabs.
Mushrooms provide a meaty taste and can provide a unique way to boost veggie servings at dinnertime.
Before: Burger made with ground turkey
The Makeover: A turkey burger is a tasty and healthful protein pick. It’s also a fantastic way to include vegetables. Sure, top it with tomato and onion. Go beyond toppings, too. The burger can be part veggie; just mix together about equal parts ground turkey and quickly sautéed finely chopped mushrooms, and form into patties.
To satisfy a “sweet tooth”, focus on naturally sweet food first (yes, fruit!), rather than traditional dessert that can be full of added sugar.
The Makeover: Bananas are a popular fruit. But kids don’t usually think of them as dessert. So turn bananas into a recognizable dessert. Peel, chop, and freeze in advance; then puree the frozen pieces in a food processor to create 60-second banana “ice cream!”
Need more fruit and veggie tips? Just ask us below—or connect with Jackie on Twitter @jackienewgent.
(1) The State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention