How to get kids to eat vegetables

cut up vegetablesThis topic, healthy snacks for kids, is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition questions moms asked:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?

Show of hands: who hated eating veggies as a kid? I don’t remember any certain veggie I avoided but I did hate tomato-based sauces. I’d ask for naked noodles with butter and parmesan, I refused to eat lasagna, and I remember rinsing BBQ sauce off my chicken. It’s a tough topic that doesn’t have a straightforward answer: how to get kids to eat vegetables. I haven’t had a problem with Nora because she’s only 10 months old and eats whatever we put in her mouth so far. With that said, I don’t have much advice from my own experience but how about I share a list of ideas that have worked for other moms?

Smoothie pops
Smoothies can be made as a balanced PFC snack but there’s something to be said for chewing your food. When possible, I vote chewing over drinking because the enzymes in your saliva kick start the digestion process for carbs. Instead of a drinkable smoothie, you could make smoothie pops. You can get the fancy popsicle makers, pour your smoothie into an ice cube tray and stick a toothpick in it, or use these freezie pop molds.

Let ’em eat dip
Fat is a vital part of a balanced meal so you are welcome to let your kids enjoy dip as their fat source. It’s better to make your own than to get store bought in order to avoid the cheap, processed oils they use (usually canola). Options are hummus, nut butter, adding your homemade seasoning to full fat Greek yogurt (french onion mix, ranch, curry, taco seasoning), mix some honey and mustard together, or try this amazing sunshine sauce.

Veggie tray
Kids like options, so prep a variety of veggies, enough for the whole week, and let them choose from the assortment. You kids might respond better to “pick whatever you want” from a veggie tray rather than being told they must eat their broccoli.

Vary the cooking method
If they don’t like steamed kale, maybe they’ll like it in a salad with dressing (remember, they need fat!), kale chips, or you can add greens in to sauces or blend it in your pesto. Think outside the box with the way you prep veggies too like roasting, mashing, cutting in sticks or wedges.

Bring on the butter
Everything is better with butter. Or cheese. Cook your veggies in butter, top them with melted cheese, or add a little bacon. It adds much more flavor compared to eating plain vegetables.

Take a multivitamin
This certainly isn’t a substitute for eating vegetables but I view multivitamins as an aid to bridge the gap for days when we just don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies.

What tricks have helped your kids to eat more vegetables?

Fresh fruit and vegetables for dirt cheap

Oh my oh my check out this glorious array of fresh fruit and vegetables!

My mom took Dave and I to this awesome wholesale produce store while we were in town visiting my parents for the 4th. Want to know the best part? It only cost this much:

Now scroll back up and look again at how much food that was!! I know, right?! No, we didn’t steal any of it. The way my mom explained it is that this place buys what the bigger grocery chain in town doesn’t. Everything still tastes great, some is just in it’s ripe phase and has to be used sooner. The avocado and tomato are for our tacos this weekend, the cauliflower is for Dave to dip in hummus with lunch, the sweet potato went well with the leftover finger-lickin’ ribs my mom made for the 4th, and the peaches make for a great snack at work or cut up in my oatmeal. Aside from the strawberries and mangoes, the rest is my mom’s. I’ll leave you drooling in suspense until next week when I share what I did with the mangoes and strawberries!

Where do you find good deals on fresh fruit and vegetables?

How to Stir Fry the Healthy Way

While Chinese take-out may be cheap, the dishes can often contain MSG and are stir-fried in cheap, processed oil. But wait! It doesn’t have to be this way! When you make your own stir fry at home, you control the ingredients. Below you’ll see my own stir fry dish full of nutrient-rich vegetables and rice made in my $15 rice cooker. See my recipe at the end of the post.

Dave & I got a wok as a wedding gift and it started out as a shiny, silver wok. The friend who gave it to us reminded me to “season” it before I use it. I had no idea what that meant, so of course I googled it and found a video. I’m surprised the smoke alarm didn’t go off in the apartment, but I turned all the fans on and opened all doors and windows before starting! You can see in my picture that the wok is now dark brown.

If you want to try making your own healthy dish, this video provides 5 easy steps on how to stir fry. Focus on HOW to stir fry, not exactly their sauce recipe since it’s pretty full of sugar. Also, I just use tongs to stir it since I don’t own a bamboo spatula.

Budget for Health’s Spicy Cashew Stir Fry
Note: This makes a LOT…like 6 big servings we eat over the course of a few days. I  usually cook up the vegetables in 2 batches. Add or subtract your own vegetables or even flavor it with some beef/chicken/shrimp)

How to Stir Fry the Healthy Way

Ingredients

  • Stir Fry:
  • 1 Tbsp sesame or canola oil
  • 2 medium peppers, cut in strips
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped bok choy (leaves and stalk)
  • 2 fresh red hot chili peppers (a little goes a LONG way)
  • 1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • 1 cup broccoli chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1 cup asparagus, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews
  • Sauce:
  • 2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar & corn starch. Stir in water. Set aside.
  2. In a large wok (or frying pan with a large surface area & high sides), heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir fry thick vegetables along with garlic & onions (peppers, asparagus, peas, broccoli). Stir fry for ~2 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms, chile peppers, edamame, and bok choy & stir fry for 1-2 more minutes. Remove all vegetables from wok & set aside
  4. Stir sauce. Add to wok. Cook & stir until thickened & bubbly. Return vegetables to wok, stir fry ~1 minute. Serve over brown rice with toasted cashews.
http://www.budgetforhealth.com/how-to-stir-fry/

How do you make your stir fry healthier?

Juicing: Get the Facts

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Last month I watched the 2010 documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I had never heard of it before until Dave & I stumbled across it on Netflix. Both Joe and Phil’s stories are a very powerful testimony to the power of whole foods and healthy choices. I’m not sure how much this documentary has affected the growing juicing trend, but it seems to be gaining mainstream momentum!

What is juicing?
Juicing refers to limiting the diet to only juice extracted from fruits and vegetables. The duration of time can vary from a few days up to a whopping 60 days like on FS&ND. Other terms used for juicing are cleansing, juice detox, or juice fasting.

What are the benefits of juicing?
America loves food. Sadly, fruits and vegetables don’t stand a chance to sugar, fat, and salt in the American diet. It is rare that anyone eats the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables let alone eat the amount consistently. Fruits and vegetables contain a great source of micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that put our bodies on the path to optimal health. There is a lot of evidence supporting the health benefit claims of increased fruit and vegetable consumption. If you watch the documentary, you’ll see Joe’s lab values go from terrible to normal within the 60 days and he even gets off almost all of his medication (he took a LOT of meds). The body knows what it needs and craves food closest to its natural form.

Watch out
Although there are great benefits to juicing, there are a few factors to be cautious of:
– A sudden increase of fruit & vegetable consumption may cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea
– Some micro-nutrients can interfere with medications. I really appreciated that Joe sought out medical monitoring in his documentary so he didn’t wind up in a bind. If you have diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, or really any other health condition, you should consult with your doctor before starting to juice.
– Juicing can lead to weight gain if you’re not cutting calories elsewhere in your diet or increasing your physical activity. Calories in > calories out to gain weight. Calories in = calories out to maintain. Calories in < calories out to lose weight.
– Juice-only diets/fasts that restrict calories may make it difficult to maintain muscle mass while you lose weight. There’s not much fat intake during juicing either, so fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K might have a hard time getting absorbed.
– Juicers can be expensive. The amount of produce purchased in order to juice enough calories can add up to quite a bill, but it will likely be compensated for since you won’t be buying as much in other grocery categories

If you decide to juice
– It’s up to you if you want to use organic produce or not. Regardless of what you choose, always wash your produce thoroughly before juicing.
– Only make what you can drink right away. Fresh juice isn’t pasteurized so it can develop harmful bacteria quickly.
– Aim for a 3-to-1 ratio of vegetables to fruit since too much fruit can cause a spike in blood sugar. The amount of fiber depends on how much pulp you leave in.
– If you want to add a kick of protein and heart-healthy fats, throw in some Greek Yogurt, low-fat milk, or some nuts.

Final words
I’ve said this before, but there is no one food and no one diet that is the solution to your health. There’s also limited clinical evidence to distinguish the effect of juice-alone or concentrated juice powders on human health as opposed to eating the whole fruit or vegetable. However, juicing can be a great way to meet your daily recommendations since you can pack so much in one glass.

Besides, when would you ever be able to eat this much food in one sitting??
Beginner’s Green Juice
(from Food and Nutrition Magazine)
2 cups kale
1 cup spinach
1 cucumber
2 celery stalks
1/2 green apple, stem/core removed, skin on
1/2 lemon, peeled

Estimated nutrition per serving (2 cups strained)
Calories 160
Total Fat 1.5 grams
Carbohydrates 37 grams
Protein 7 grams
Vitamin A 480%
Vitamin C 30%
Calcium 30%
Iron 25%

Have you tried juicing before? How did it go?

Ham, Broccoli, Spinach, & Mushroom Quiche Recipe

Or “Fill in the Blank Quiche.” I talked about the health benefits of eggs in yesterday’s post and have talked about making breakfast for dinner a few times, so I thought I’d share a quiche recipe we’ve made for dinner. It’s very easy to throw together and only takes 30 minutes to bake in the oven. I never remember to take pictures of my food until I’ve already eaten it, so I’ve provided a picture of the final product made by Andrea at Simple Organized Living, one of my favorite sites I follow. Click the picture to see step-by-step directions with pictures of how to make the recipe on her site:
I’m sure the crescent roll dough would have been delicious, but I skipped it when we made ours because I ended up using it to make a chicken pot pie (also from Andrea…also very delicious). Crescent rolls are so flaky and melt-in-your-mouth delicious because they contain a lot of fat, so by not including it in this recipe made my quiche healthier. This type of dish is so versatile because you don’t really have to follow the recipe; you can throw in whatever vegetables you’d like (frozen, fresh, or canned) and can use more or less eggs depending on how many you’re cooking for.

Ingredients
1  8 oz. pkg. refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 c. chopped spinach (I thawed frozen spinach & drained it well)
1-2 c. chopped broccoli
1  4 oz. can mushrooms; drained
6 eggs
3 T. sour cream (I used fat free)
1 t. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste (I skipped the salt since deli meat contains a lot)
1/2 c. shredded cheese {any variety you have on hand}
sliced ham, chopped ham, ground sausage, or other meat of choice {optional}

Directions
1. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, sour cream, garlic, and cheese
2. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies
3. {optional}Place sliced ham, chopped ham, or cooked sausage over the top (I just stirred chopped ham in with the mix)
4. Bake at 350*F for 30 minutes or until the center is fully set

Do you have any egg-celent breakfast recipes?

Roasted Vegetables: Vegetable Tian Recipe

I already like to eat vegetables, but roasted vegetables brings our relationship to a whole new level. I like the mild, sweet flavor from steaming or sautéing, but when they get a little singed around the edges in the oven, I can’t get enough! With that said, when I discovered this recipe on Pinterest I had to make it. I didn’t know what the word Tian in the recipe name meant so I asked Google and it told me Tian is a hot or cold layered dish. It makes sense once you see the dish. My pin was linked to a site called For the Love of Cooking (who got the recipe from the book Barefoot in Paris). As I’m writing this post, the dish is in my oven, my mouth is watering, and my stomach is grumbling. Dave better get home soon so we can chow this thing down…

Often if I don’t the ingredient the recipe calls for, I either skip it or make something up. That method goes well about 75% of the time. I still have two pounds of red-skin potatoes so I use them in my recipe instead of Russets. Other than that, I used the same ingredients.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes
  • Sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Dried thyme, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

2. Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with sea salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

3. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
4. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned (leave the foil off). Enjoy.

What’s your favorite method of preparing vegetables?

Hide your Veggies

Raise of hands—how many of you eat the recommended number of vegetable servings every day? The recommended servings of vegetables are 3-4 or 4-5 depending on your caloric needs (one serving = ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw).

If I asked a room of 100 people this question, recent stats from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention say that only 27 of you would be able to honestly raise their hand.

How to fix this dilemma? Try hiding your veggies. Researchers at Penn State did a small 41-person study on hiding vegetables in food and it produced some interesting results.

How it worked:
The university offered these participants breakfast, lunch, and dinner once a week for 3 weeks. The catch was that pureed vegetables replaced some ingredients in one of the items at each meal- carrot bread for breakfast, macaroni & cheese at lunch, and chicken-and-rice casserole at dinner.

When enough pureed vegetables were added to triple the amount of vegetables in the dish, the calorie content decreased by 15%. When enough were added to increase the veggies by 4.5 times, the calories decreased by 25%.

The results
Participants consumed the same weight of food regardless of the amount of pureed vegetables the dish contained. This means that on days the veggies were tripled, they ate 200 less calories. On days the veggies were multiplied by 4.5, they ate 360 fewer calories.

Try your own study
Play around with some pureed veggies & see if it works for you. If you’re looking for places to hide, here are a few suggestions:

Spaghetti sauce– sauté and then puree peppers, mushrooms, onions or even broccoli & add to your sauce for
Casseroles: Dice carrots, celery, corn, turnips, cabbage, leeks, green beans…what can’t you add to a casserole?
Soups: Puree some cooked carrots & broccoli to add to the broth and then add even more by throwing in some bite size pieces
Smoothies: Add some green leafy vegetables to your fruity smoothie
Pasta: This might be a new idea to you, but you can make your own vegetable noodles and use less real pasta. Use a peeler long ways on a zucchini or carrot and eat raw or boil them for a little bit with your noodles (not too long though or you lose some vitamins). Spaghetti squash is a good alternative too since they’re already noodle-shaped for you!

As for un-pureed vegetables, you can always throw more in a salad, sandwich, wrap, on an omelet or breakfast burrito, or just dip them in some hummus or a light dressing. If you have a salad with your meal, eat it before your entrée and you might not need to finish the entrée. Leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Do you hide your veggies? What methods do you use to eat more vegetables?