KIDS and VEGETABLES—two words that are usually not found in the same sentence and many times not in the same meal.
Many children in today’s society have grown accustomed to pre-packaged, processed food items. In fact, researchers in 2005 discovered that 2/3 of three year olds were able to identify the McDonald’s golden arches. Favorite foods such as mac n cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza are packed high in fat, salt and added sugars. Fruit is typically consumed in the form of juice or fruit snacks and vegetables are commonly offered from a can or box mix such as green beans, corn or potatoes.
Yes, I agree that some fruits and vegetables are better than none, but what’s concerning is the lack of fresh ingredients in kids’ diets and the overall poor quality of nutritional intake.
Researchers have been investigating children’s eating behaviors and identifying strategies to get them to eat healthier. A recently published study in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012 http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(11)01498-2/fulltext found that vegetable consumption (specifically broccoli) increased in pre-school aged children when a dip was offered with the vegetable. These findings support many other studies of its kind. What we are discovering is that young kids are more likely to consume raw vegetables when they have something to dip them in! One possible reason why this method is working is that a dip may help offset bitter flavors that some vegetables have. But let’s face it—dip adds fun!
Light Ranch dressing may be the easiest dip/dressing to use, but there are many other nutritious, homemade concoctions that can be created:
- Make your own dressing by using light sour cream or Greek yogurt mixed with Ranch seasoning. In fact, you could use any spice/herb blend to create new flavors.
- Peanut butter provides a good source of protein when added to celery or carrot sticks.
- Hummus which is made from chickpeas provides fiber, a scarce nutrient in most kids diets. Hummus doesn’t have to be bland! You can infuse garlic, roasted red pepper and other flavors to give this dip an interesting twist.
- Dips for fruits can be made too. Try vanilla yogurt or add a small amount of honey or cinnamon to Greek yogurt to make a great dip for strawberries, bananas, apples, grapes or pears.
- Be cautious with unhealthy dip varieties. Dips like caramel, marshmallow crème and chocolate sauce contain excessive amounts of added sugars and unwanted calories.
If the dip method still doesn’t make your young one want to consume more fruits or vegetables, it may be a good idea to experiment with blending and pureeing these foods. Steamed cauliflower can be easily pureed and mixed in with mashed potatoes or mac n cheese. Shredded carrots or zucchini can be added to spaghetti sauces or casserole dishes. To make it less noticeable and less chunky, puree the vegetables with the sauce before serving. Two great resources that provide recipes for these nutritious puree blends are: The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine http://www.amazon.com/Sneaky-Chef-Strategies-Healthy-Favorite/dp/0762430753 and Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld http://www.amazon.com/Deceptively-Delicious-Simple-Secrets-Eating/dp/006176793X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370628568&sr=1-1&keywords=deceptively+delicious
The goal for fruit and vegetable consumption is five servings per day. For additional tips and ideas for increasing your child’s fruit and vegetable consumption, please visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet11KidFriendlyVeggiesAndFruits.pdf