If you think it takes FBI-level negotiation skills to convince a toddler to eat their vegetables – you’re completely right. However if you’re up to the task, here are a few mom hacks that you can use to create healthy meals for your family.
Spinach Smoothies: Add frozen bananas, frozen strawberries and frozen blueberries with spinach and unsweetened coconut or almond milk for a yummy AND healthy smoothie. The frozen fruit will overpower the blended spinach and your kids will have no idea they are “drinking a salad.”
Egg Casserole: Gather all of the unused produce that hasn’t made it into this week’s meal plan. Sauté the produce, then mix into a bowl with eggs and seasoning. Skip the sautéing if pressed for time. If you’re in a spicy mood, add a jar of salsa to the mix. You can also add breakfast meats, cheeses and so on. Not only does this prevent wasted produce, it also creates a tasty protein-filled breakfast.
For school-aged kids, try packing healthy snack options. When only faced with one option, they’re forced to eat healthy – even if it’s something they wouldn’t usually choose. Try carrots with hummus, apples and peanut butter, kale chips or celery with ranch. I also pack healthy snacks for my little ones when we leave. Same idea – when they’re hungry, they’re more willing to eat what mommy provides. But of course, if they get to pick between Oreos or veggie sticks, they are going to go with what they know they love.
Veggie muffins: Carrot or zucchini muffins have a ton of veggies and fiber in each serving and don’t look anything like veggies! My kids love these treats for after-school snacks. For an even healthier muffin, try using applesauce instead of butter, and cutting back on the sugar.
Veggies tray with dip: Part of the challenge of healthy eating is the ease and accessibility of junk food. Chips? Open a bag. Organic kale and salmon salad? Ain’t nobody got time for that! So preparation is important. I have found that if I prepare healthy snacks in advance, it’s much easier to choose them when hunger arises. One way to do this is to prepare a veggie tray and keep it in the fridge. Now you can simply grab the veggie tray and let your kids go at it when they’re hungry. And if they’re really hungry, they don’t mind veggies with dip.
Soup: When I make soup for dinner, my kids usually pick out the meat and don’t eat the vegetables… Here’s a sneaky “mom hack” I use to fix that problem. Take a pot filled with water, put in a ton of veggies, and let it cook down for about an hour. Personally, I use kale, onion, garlic, tomatoes, celery, carrots, peppers, squash – you can use whatever you like. Once the veggies are tender, pour the whole thing into the blender. After blending, this is now your soup base. Now add your meat, rice, noodles, etc. There might not be any visible veggies in the soup, but the broth is packed with nutrition.
Zoodles: I recently splurged for a Zoodler – $11.99 at Walmart. If you’re not familiar with this technology, it basically slices vegetables into noodle shapes. It’s an awesome way to incorporate veggies during dinner. Last week, I made zucchini noodles with spaghetti sauce on top. It was actually very good and the zoodles really do look and taste similar to spaghetti. With a little parmesan, you almost can’t tell the difference.
Baked Veggies: If something tastes good, kids will eat it – even vegetables. Face the facts, your kids will not eat that soggy, limp, steamed broccoli. You have to make it taste interesting. Chop it up, mix it with garlic salt, pepper, and olive oil, then blast it at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Do the same with zucchini, carrots, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, cauliflower – this method works for any vegetable. This is also a great way to make kale chips.
The road to healthy eating is a long and self-disciplined one. I’m still on it. As I’m sure we all desire, I simply want to teach my kids to live a healthy lifestyle that they’ll maintain for the rest of their lives. And that’s only going to happen with our help.