Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.
Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters. To see all Ask a Nurse articles click here.
10 Ways to Sneak Healthy Food into Your Child’s Diet
(Works for picky husbands, too!)
As a nurse and a mother of six healthy kids, I have developed a few ways to sneak some nutrition into our meals. I decided to share with you these secret, never before revealed tips, so you can deceive conceal from your family how healthy their meals really are.
- Start Early!
The absolute best way to raise kids who are not picky eaters is to start from the beginning. From the time your baby is old enough to eat solid food you should expose him to lots of healthy vegetables, grains, and proteins. Go by what your Pediatrician recommends for when to introduce foods, but once your child can eat a variety of foods, give them a variety! Try to hold off on the sweet fruits, once your baby tastes fruit they often begin to refuse vegetables. Sometimes a fruit and vegetable blend is a better choice. Never give your baby sugar! Read all the labels! We are addicted to sugar, do the best thing for your child and let them taste food in its natural state.
- Model the behavior you want to see.
I know I am always saying this phrase to you, but I do it because it works! Why would your children want to eat vegetables when you turn your nose up at them? Try new foods yourself, and try new ways of fixing your old favorites.
- Cook with your kids.
Letting kids help with some of the meal preparation helps them want to try their creation! Give them plenty of praise during the prep and while eating.
- Put some veggies in a blender!
Try blending some vegetables until they have a fairly smooth texture. Add this super-nutritious blend to spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, any casserole, soup, or any other recipe that has some bold flavors already. I did this for years until my family found out! It is best to only add a small amount and keep adding each time you make a meal until the taste is discernible.
- Sneak fiber into your meals!
Add oatmeal to meatloaf, cookies, bread, muffins or dry cereal. Most of us do not get enough fiber in our diet, and oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber per cup. Lentils can be cooked and mashed and added to many meals, at 15.6 grams of fiber per cup they are a great food to sneak in (if your family doesn’t like the taste). Another trick is to add Benefiber (or generic equivalent) fiber to any liquid or cooked foods. You can’t taste it and it does not get thick or goopy, I use it all the time….Shhh! Don’t tell!
- Grow your own vegetables with your children
You don’t have to live in the country or have acres of land to grow your own food. Start small, plant a bean seed in a paper cup on the windowsill. When it gets a few inches tall and has several leaves, transplant it to a pot outside, or plant it in any spot that gets sun. Let your child water it, and pull up any weeds that sprout up too close. Before long your child will have grown his own beans! When your child grows his own food, of course he will want to eat it! Lightly steam or microwave your few bean pods, add a tiny bit of butter, maybe a sprinkle of salt and/or pepper and voila! You and your child are ready to plant some more! Look at what seeds or plants are for sale in your area. Let your child pick out a few they want to grow. Did you know you can grow purple beans? When you cook them they turn bright green when they are done! Maybe growing purple beans will convince your child to try them!
Photo by kirsten reese (https://www.flickr.com/photos/50806695@N04/)
- Play with your food!
Remember the snack, “ants on a log” when you were a kid? All it took was celery, peanut butter and raisins. You can do all kinds of creative things to make healthy food more fun to eat. How about kabobs? You can buy those long sticks at Wal-Mart; just don’t let the kids sword fight with them or you may be making a trip to the emergency room before you make dinner! You can do all kinds of food on kabob sticks. Fruit, veggies, cheese cubes alternated with fruit, use your imagination! I used to let my one daughter put sprinkles on her oatmeal! It wasn’t much, but it got her to eat the healthy rolled oats for breakfast. She is almost 19 and I think she still adds sprinkles sometimes! Using “dip” is another trick that works. Let your kids use ranch dressing, ketchup, yogurt, or your own concoction to dip food into.
- It’s all in a name!
Make up some funny and memorable names for some of your dishes. I’m sure you have heard of “broccoli trees,” “pretzel logs,” and “carrot coins”. Think up some catchy names for other meals. When my kids were little, I would save leftovers in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When we had a bag full I would make soup. For some reason, we didn’t want to call it “leftover soup,” so the kids came up with “Donkey soup!” I have no idea how that name came up!
- Frozen food is so much better!
Eating frozen food is fun, especially in hot weather. Putting it on a stick is just another fun bonus! Make your own frozen pops with fresh fruit, juice, and/or yogurt. Freeze bananas and put them on a stick, melt a little dark chocolate in the microwave and dip, roll in granola or chopped nuts. Frozen grapes or cherries are fun and tasty, just be careful of choking. I wouldn’t give them to young children or any child who was running or being wild at the time.
- Smoothies are the bomb!
Smoothies are all the rage right now. Basically you throw some frozen fruit, yogurt, and ice cubes in the blender and blend until thick and smooth. There are many variations, try any of these combinations:
- Frozen berries, green tea, small amount of honey
- Kale, granny smith apple, banana, ice
- Frozen berries, juice
- Orange juice, carrot, mangos, ice
- Banana, peanut butter, vanilla yogurt, ice
Well, I hope you have a few more ideas to try on your families this week! I would love to hear from you!
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