It’s easy enough to know that your family should consume more plant foods, but how can you actually make it happen? Fortunately, there are strategies that make it easy for parents and even fun for kids to successfully adopt a healthier eating plan. Since lifestyles and preferences vary widely, below is a list you can use to find solutions that work best.
Shop with kids for healthful foods. Bring your kids to the grocery store with you and have them each pick out a fruit or a vegetable. When they choose the food themselves, they are more excited about eating it!
Involve kids in food preparation. Children are more excited to eat a food if they’ve helped to make it. An easy way to do this is to help kids make their own pizzas with whole-wheat pizza crust. Kids will love making their own food, and parents can provide their favorite healthful toppings such as mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and spinach.
Buy frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are pre-cleaned and pre-cut, which reduces food prep and clean up time, and they are always available in a time crunch. Choose frozen vegetables without added salt to reduce sodium intake. It is a misconception that frozen produce is less nutritious than fresh. However, most frozen vegetables are flash frozen soon after they are picked, which helps retain most of the nutrients. Fresh vegetables can take a while to get from the farm, to the grocery store, to the table, during which time, light and air can degrade some of the nutrients. While fresh vegetables are always a great option, the frozen varieties are convenient and offer equal if not better nutrition.
Use hunger to your benefit. When kids are hungry, they are more likely to try something new, so introduce new, healthy foods at the beginning of mealtime. For example, serve fresh cut veggies as an appetizer before the main course.
Emphasize plant foods as time-savers. Eating more plant-based food can be easier to prepare since it doesn’t necessarily require cooking, and can offer fewer food safety concerns when cooking with kids. Uncooked meat or meat products have high levels of bacteria, so they are not ideal for children to handle, as they could get sick if they don’t wash their hands properly before touching their mouth or nose. While plant-foods can carry bacteria as well, the risk is lower, and there are more areas children can get involved in such as washing or tearing up leaves.
Visit us next week for more tips on how to include plant foods in your family's diet!