We've been told over and over all that we need to be eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each and every day.
But knowing and doing are two different things, aren’t they?
Sometimes it feels darn near impossible to get them all in there. It's so much easier to fill up on convenience and junk food instead. If your family is anything like mine, they’d much rather fill up on a bag of chips or a bowl of rice or pasta instead of eating an apple or a plate of steamed broccoli.
That's why we need to become fruit and vegetable ninjas and get a little creative! Here are a few ideas to “sneak” some extra vegetables and fruits in your family’s diet.
1. Start the day with a breakfast smoothie.
All you have to do is throw some fruits, low-fat yogurt and ice in a blender. Toss in a handful of mild greens like spinach (I swear, you can't taste it at all!). You may also want to add a scoop of protein powder in there for good measure and a healthy fat, like avocado or coconut oil. Just blend for a few seconds and you have the perfect breakfast ready to go. Throw it in a fun cup with a twisty straw (because presentation is everything!) and you're done. To make it even more appealing for your kids, call it a fun name like "Berry Blast" or "Hulk Smoothie".
2. Dried fruit makes an excellent snack any time of the day.
Add some small cartons of raisins to your child’s lunch box, pack some dried cherries in your husband’s briefcase and keep some trail mix sitting around for snacking. You can also add dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal in the morning. My family loves snacking on dried apricots while watching TV.
3. Add some fruits and vegetables to your family’s sandwiches.
You can add some banana, sliced apples or strawberry slices to a peanut butter sandwich. Top a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and anything else they will eat. You can even make a sub shop style vegetable sandwich by combining several different vegetables with some mayonnaise and cheese on bread.
4. Have a salad bar at dinner.
Set out a variety of seasoned, cooked and raw vegetables, some cheese and croutons as well as several choices of salad dressing along with the lettuce and let everybody create their own perfect salad.
5. Let them drink their fruits and vegetables.
Juice your own fresh juice and encourage everyone to drink them as a snack. Get creative. Let the kiddos choose which fruits and veggies go into their juice. You could start “family cocktail hour” by pouring everybody a glass of his or her favorite juice over ice. Add some straws, cocktail umbrellas and sit together to talk about how everybody’s day went.
6. Try this for dessert.
Put a small scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt in a bowl and top it with lots of fresh or frozen fruit.
7. Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Cube cheese and serve with grapes. Cut up some fresh veggies and serve them with ranch dip. And of course there’s ants on a log. Spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the inside of a stick of celery and sprinkle raisins on it (wow, fruit and vegetable in one snack).
8. Try some new fruits and vegetables.
Pick something exotic to get your family’s curiosity. With a little luck their curiosity will outweigh their initial apprehension to trying something new. You could try artichokes, plantains, papaya, mango, star fruit, or anything else you can find in the produce department of your local store.
9. Serve veggies chopped up in their meal.
Make a pot of vegetable soup or a stew that’s heavy on veggies and easy on the meat. Or try a veggie loaded fried rice recipe. When veggies are chopped small, they're harder for picky eaters to pick out. Both of these make some great comfort food when the weather gets cold.
10. Make "Nachos" for snack time.
Slice up apples and drizzle with peanut butter and a tablespoon of chocolate chips. Or make a veggie version with sliced cucumbers, ranch dressing and croutons.
Incorporate a few of these ideas and you will have everyone in your family eating more fruits and vegetables in no time.
Now that everyone in the family has gotten a taste for it, make sure you always have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies available and ready to snack on.