As we move toward spring, we can’t help but celebrate the green all around us. Sure, that can mean St. Patrick’s Day. But it also means the abundance of healthy green vegetables and leafy greens. They’ll soon be growing locally and available in our farmers markets and supermarkets.
Vegetables contain nutrients that are vital for healthy bodies, according to myplate.gov. Potassium, fiber, folate and vitamins A and C are among the health-promoting benefits of vegetables.
Kids of all ages have recommended daily amounts of vegetables. Even toddlers should have up to a cup of vegetables each day, according to the site. But fewer than 12% of children eat enough vegetables.
If your kids aren’t as excited about the bounty of fresh green veggies as you’d like them to be, take heart. By offering a variety of vegetables at home each day — and letting your children see you enjoying them, too — you’re doing your part to help your kids grow to accept, even love, the vegetables on their plates.
Here are some more tips to grow your own healthy habits at home and help your kids eat their greens!
Think green for snacks
The convenience factor for snack foods is a challenge for everyone. When your child is hungry now, it’s so much easier to grab a processed snack rather than to wait for vegetables to be washed and sliced. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends identifying prime real estate in your refrigerator for broccoli, celery and cucumbers, plus other washed and ready-to-grab veggies. Your kids are more likely to eat what’s in plain sight.
Seal the deal with cups of Creamy Guacamole Dip or Fresh Herb Cottage Cheese Dip. Both recipes are easy to make and pair well with all types of vegetables. They also contain protein to keep your kids satisfied until their next meal.
Serve salad with dinner every single night
It’s easy to get out of the habit of thinking as much about the vegetables as you do about the main dish when prepping meals for your family. Commit to a salad with every dinner to boost your kids’ daily vegetable intake.
Make this an easy task by putting bagged salads in your shopping cart. Or ask your kids for suggestions on which vegetables they’d like to layer over their lettuce, spinach or kale. Challenge them to think beyond carrots, but be grateful if that’s their only choice. In time, they’ll learn to expand their options, especially if they see you doing the same.
Smoothies? Oh yeah.
There’s no easier way to get greens into your kids than when blended with something creamy and something a little sweet. “Kids can get vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber from a smoothie,” says the AAP, Because blending leaves fiber intact, smoothies can be a healthier option compared to juices.
Keep it simple. A few ingredients blended together give the best results, and opt for milk or yogurt rather than protein powders. Here’s a great Healthy Shamrock Shake recipe that gets its green color from spinach. (Your kids will never suspect.)
Or, try a smoothie bowl for breakfast. This is the easiest way to get spinach or kale into your kids before school even starts in the morning. Here’s a highly-adaptable Green Smoothie Bowl recipe to try tomorrow!
Nurture your budding foodies
Leafy greens are all the same, right? Not so, says eatright.org, the site for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Dark leafy greens offer plenty of the antioxidant beta carotene, which helps to form vitamin A in the body and may help lower the risk for certain diseases,” it shares. “The darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich the lettuce.”
Take your kids to the grocery store and ask them to identify the greens by their color variety, then choose a few to sample at home. Ask your kids to describe the flavors and pick their favorites. Discover which are best for cooking and which are great raw. Together, look for recipes that include spinach, romaine, kale, collards, beet greens, escarole or endive.
You can try this same exploration with other green vegetables. How can you use cucumbers, celery, green peppers, bok choy, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans or peas in recipes at home?
Here’s one to get you started: try these Herb and Asparagus Pita Pizzas and celebrate asparagus, one of the first fresh Michigan vegetables you’ll find this spring.
Content sponsored by Milk Means More. Visit milkmeansmore.org for more kid-friendly recipes and nutrition tips.