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Krisha

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Maria

Kids and Veggies

by Maria on October 25, 2010 

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I admit, even though I'm a dietitian and do my best to feed my boys a healthy diet, I still get excited when they eat their vegetables. 

It's no secret that the veggie group tends to be the least popular among young children. And yet it's the most vitamin-packed and wholesome of all the groups. And for that reason, after the grains group, it's the one we should be eating the most from every day.

Most adults should eat at least 5 servings of vegetables every day, that's about 2 1/2 cups of cooked vegetables, more if it's from raw vegetables. According to the USDA's MyPyramid, an active 2-year old needs 1 1/2 cups per day, and an active 5-year old needs 2 cups per day. There is no question about it, that's a lot of veggies to get onto your little one's fork.

So what's a mom to do? First of all, you have to give your kids the chance to eat this much. This means not leaving all the vegetables until dinner time. Veggies should be served up throughout the day, in whatever way works for you. Breakfast, snack time, lunch, and dinner, all give opportunities for vegetable intake. Here are some ideas and suggestions:

Breakfast 

  • Vegetable omelet
  • Carrot muffins
  • Zucchini pancakes

Snack Time

  • Vegetable crudites: raw cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and carrots are easy to prepare and keep on hand for a quick snack; to keep it interesting, vary the veggies and the dip that you serve
  • Cherry tomato and cheese skewer
  • Salsa and multi-grain or low-sodium tortilla chips

Lunch 

  • Spread avocado onto a sandwich before adding the rest of toppings
  • Add cucumber slices to sandwiches, or serve on the side
  • Add sliced tomato to grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Steamed sugar snap peas
  • Steamed edamame 
  • Baked sweet potato fries
  • Baby carrots

Dinner

  • Serve vegetables as you would for yourself
  • Try to serve at least two different vegetables with every meal
  • Vary the types of vegetables that you serve; to help you do this plan them out and then do your grocery shopping 
  • Don't be afraid to add a little butter or a dash of salt if it will make it more appealing to your child

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If your child is particularly stubborn when it comes to eating their vegetables don't worry too much, just keep trying and don't make a fuss about it. Sooner or later they will see everyone else in the family eating them and give them a try. 

In the meantime, you can take a tip from the Sneaky Chef and "sneak" vegetables into the foods your child likes. Pureed or grated vegetables can be added to just about everything, from macaroni and cheese, to hamburgers, to brownies. This method takes some extra work and organization, but is a great way to get more vegetables into the whole family. Just remember to continue serving undisguised vegetables along side the sneaky foods.

My oldest son was picky about eating vegetables starting around age one, when he discovered the world of sweets. But I kept serving him vegetables, and making sure he ate lots of fruit. Now that he is 4, he wants to keep his super-hero body in top condition and knows that means eating from the "vegetable group" every day, and ideally at every meal. He still prefers fruit, but is starting to eat more vegetables. And so I still get excited every time he eats them.

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