Getting More Fruits and Vegetables into Your Diet
I am sure you have heard the saying "5 a day". The USDA has long recommended that everyone should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Did you read that clearly? It doesn't say to only get five servings but to get AT LEAST five servings. To be honest, I find this hard to do. I am not a big fan of most vegetables, so I know that contributes to my problem. I also find it hard to get five into my kids each day.
I have some tricks though, that help us get more fruits and veggies into our diets. Some might consider this sneaky, but I figure whatever works, right? Besides I am trying to sneak them in for my husband and I as well as the kids, so it's fair at least.
We are not big fans of chunky spaghetti sauce. Good news though, spaghetti sauce lends itself well to adding pureed veggies. I will frequently steam carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and/or spinach, puree it and add it to my spaghetti sauce. The only flavor change I notice is that the sauce is a little sweeter and who is going to complain about that?
The food doesn't always have to be hidden, we do want our kids to like vegetables and fruits and if we hide everything they will still grow up thinking they dislike good for you foods. When you make a sandwich add lettuce, onion, tomato and pickles. Every little bit helps and your sandwich suddenly becomes so much better for you when you add veggies.
In the fall I process all my pumpkins and freeze pumpkin puree in one cup portions. I use this pumpkin puree in muffins, rolls, pancakes and cake mix. Delicious! Especially the cake. Take one box of chocolate cake mix and blend it with two cups of pumpkin puree. That is it. You don't need to add the oil, eggs or water. Cook as normal and everyone is eating a very healthy version of dessert.
When my bananas get mushy because no one ate them, I will mash one up and add it to pancake or waffle batter. I also make quick breads and muffins with fruit frequently. We have blueberry muffins, pumpkin muffins, banana bread, cranberry bread, apple cinnamon muffins, zucchini muffins and raspberry muffins. We all love these and it is one more fruit or veggie in our bodies each day.
I also let my kids drink juice. Almost every day we all drink one cup of juice. Too much juice can be very bad for you, but once a day can be beneficial. They will drink just about any juice too, so I can get a wider variety of fruits and vegetables in them. We drink grape juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, V-8 juice, etc. I also squeeze fresh lemon into our water for a refreshing afternoon pick-me-up and it adds one more fruit to our daily total as well.
One of the best things I have done to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is to make it easy for them. I try to always keep a wide variety on hand and have it washed and ready to be eaten. Frequently they ask for a snack and if I limit their choices to a fruit or veggie they will usually pick something and happily eat it.
Smoothies or slushies is another great way to get fruits and veggies into your family. You can hide a lot of different things in smoothies. We make them with yogurt, almost any type of fruit (but especially berries and bananas), even spinach and carrots. Slushies are a non-dairy version or a smoothie and taste great on hot days. My kids will ask for fruit slushies over Popsicles any day.
Many people have a limited variety of fruits and veggies that they will eat. To encourage your family to eat different ones try letting them pick out new foods at the grocery store and make a very positive experience. Model good behavior and good food choices and new foods will go down a lot easier. I don't like broccoli, but if I show my kids that I am eating a piece anyway they are much more willing to eat their piece. Good luck and keep trying. It can take dozens of tries before a child will like a new food, but it will be worth it in the end.