We all know that vegetables are important for health. Of all the fad diets and trends, almost all include plant-based foods. Vegetables are nutrient rich, filling and, when prepared correctly, can be quite tasty. Even though we all know the many benefits of vegetables, our diets are sorely lacking in the colors of the rainbow. Children are especially susceptible to poor diets because they often replace vegetables with processed foods and snacks. For parents who want to increase their children’s nutritional intake, there are several ways to incorporate the power of vegetables into meals.
Some nutrients are exclusively found in plants
Although vegetables are not the only healthy foods, plants are the sole sources of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Highly-processed, starchy vegetables and grains, such as potatoes and rice, are stripped of many of their nutrients, but are unfortunately the most popular plant-based foods for children. Vegetables offer a whole spectrum of additional nutrients, including most every vitamin and substance that humans need to live.
Vegetables help reduce childhood obesity
When children increase their consumption of vegetables, their incidences of obesity decrease. Part of the reason for this is how vegetables provide a filling sensation. The more bulky, fiber-rich foods you eat, the less hunger you experience, and the less room you have for snacks and unhealthy dishes.
As crucial as vegetables are to a healthy, balanced diet, many children go days without having any vegetables in their diets. There are two simple ways to increase vegetable and nutritional content. The first is to put vegetables on your kids’ plates and in their lunch boxes. Secondly, sneak veggies into meals however you can.
Tasty vegetables recipes
Kids gravitate toward french fries, and understandably so, as they are delicious. But if you think about the allure of a good french fry, it’s not due to its potato flavor, but crispiness and salt. To obtain the satisfaction of those flavors, kids also get a big serving of bad fat and a load of empty carbohydrates. Of course, boiled, limp vegetables will often be ignored by children, as they can be flavorless, but it is possible to take almost any vegetable and apply some high heat, a touch of good oil, and a sprinkle of seasoning to achieve a french fry-like flavor with garden nutrition. Try roasting carrots, sweet potatoes or cauliflower that have been tossed in olive oil and a little salt and pepper in a hot oven. The veggies will crisp up, giving a satisfying, crunchy, roasted flavor.
Another way to encourage vegetable eating is to get sneaky. There are many dishes that kids like that can be fortified with vegetables. If your children enjoy pasta with tomato sauce, congrats - tomatoes are already a great source of nutrition, but you can easily use the sauce to hide even more vitamins and minerals. Blend up some cooked carrots, spinach and beets and blend to a puree, then add to your normal pasta sauce recipe. The mixture can also double as a pizza sauce.
Connect your kids to their sources of food
Beyond recipes and diets, you can encourage your children to eat better by teaching them about food sources. Gardening is an effective way to combine a hobby with healthy living, and it encourages better eating habits. Kids are more likely to eat a cucumber if they had a hand in growing the vegetable. Even if you have a small space, it’s easy to start a front-yard garden full of healthy, natural treats. Make the hobby more exciting by letting your kids choose what they plant.
Ultimately, changing bad eating habits to healthy ones requires time and patience, but it is possible to increase your children’s health through incorporating vegetables. Just make them taste good, and your whole family will benefit.
Be sure to look for more articles from Kris. She has all kinds of helpful advice on her blog, Parenting With Kris. Be sure to check it out! Tell her Kauffman’s sent you!
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