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There seems to be some debate on whether or not moms should “sneak” veggies into their kids’ food.  Some moms are big fans of the practice and there are even a few cookbooks out there with recipes designed around this, while other moms are more traditional and believe children should be taught to eat their vegetables …period.

So, what’s the best method?  My own, personal opinion is as long as you’re having success in getting your kids to eat their veggies, keep doing whatever is working for you.  I’ve never had to resort in the “hiding” method.  There are a couple veggies my kids don’t like–specifically John doesn’t care for cooked greens like spinach, kale or collards and neither teen likes olives.  Therefore, I don’t give them olives and when I prepare pasta with greens I try to minimize the amount of greens in John’s serving.  Pretty simple solution.

My success has been rather than hiding the vegetables, I spice them up and prepare them in ways that make them as appealing as possible.  It can go a long way in how accepting your kid is at trying or eating his/her veggies.  The Fruits & Veggies–More Matters website has some great ideas for adding extra taste to your veggies.  I’d like to share one of my kids’ favorite meals and you’ll be suprised that it contains alot of veggies.  Here’s my recipe for Stuffed Peppers–hope you enjoy it as much as Alex and John do!

Stuffed Peppers

1 pound ground chicken breast
1 cup instant brown rice
2 cups spaghetti sauce*
3 large red bell peppers, halfed lengthwise and seeded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
*I use leftover homemade spaghetti sauce, but you can use jar sauce, just choose the lower sodium, vegetarian options.

Place the halfed, seeded bell peppers in a baking dish and cover with foil.  Place in an oven at 350 degrees and bake 20-30 minutes, until peppers are just softened.  In the meantime, prepare the brown rice according to package directions and set aside.  In the 2 T olive oil, cook ground chicken breast, onion and garlic until meat is browned.  Add brown rice and 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce, mix well.  Remove peppers from oven and spoon meat/rice mixture into peppers.  Pour remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of spaghetti sauce over peppers.  Cover with tin foil and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes.  Remove tin foil and sprinkle low-fat mozzarella cheese over peppers.  Bake another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Enjoy! (serves 4)

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Ever hear of the saying “monkey see, monkey do?”  Well, that kind of sums it up when it comes to kids eating healthy.  This topic has come up in past blog entries, but I think it’s worth repeating since our own attitudes and actions toward healthy eating have a lot of influence on our children’s nutrition choices.

Research shows that eating habits children learn early in life tend to stick with them.  Even before your child is exposed to television, his peers or other outside influences, he learns from YOU!  This is why it’s really important to be a good role model and start him off with a strong foundation of healthy eating.  We know he’s going to be exposed to some questionable food choices when he heads off to school and begins lunching with other children, but if he’s already got a taste for nutritious food it will be much easier to keep some of that stuff to a minimum.

Another way to influence young children is to enlist an older sibling to help.  Younger children often mimic their older brothers and sisters so if they see them eating a healthy diet, they’re more likely to follow in their footsteps.

Finally, make eating fruits and veggies fun for your kids right from the start.  Allow them to pick out their favorites at the grocery store and do taste tests on things like different apple varieties or red grapes versus green grapes.  Experiment with snacks like frozen fruit skewers where you and your child select diffrent fruits like melon, grapes, berries and kiwi and place on a stick–freeze and enjoy!

Bottom line is if you make a healthy diet a priority for yourself and your family, chances are it will become a priority for your child as well someday.

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Remember being told never to eat between meals when you were a kid?  Well, in my opinion, you can throw that advice right out the window.  Snacking, as long as you’re eating the right things, can be key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as keeping your energy levels up throughout the day.

Snacking probably got it’s bad rap from people associating it with consuming high fat, high calorie treats from vending machines that have little or no nutritional value.  If you rethink the concept of snacking by associating it with consuming nutrient packed small portions it makes a lot of sense.  Here’s an example.  It’s 3:00 p.m. and your energy is starting to dwindle.  Lunch was a few hours ago and dinner isn’t for another 2 or 3 hours–it’s an ideal time for a snack.  For 100 calories I can have a 1 ounce (mini) muffin or 2 cups of cantaloupe.  The mini muffin will only make me want a few more mini muffins to try and curb my hunger.  The cantaloupe will provide enough  food to satisfy my hunger, plus it’s a great source of Vitamins A and C and is both fat and cholestrerol free.

When you make smart snacking choices it’s also easier to stay focused at mealtimes.  Snacks keep me from being ravenously hungry come dinnertime so I don’t overeat.  Typically a midmorning snack has the same effect on lunch.  You’ll notice that most of our healthy menu ideas include smart snack options.  Some ideas include broccoli and cauliflower with hummus, sliced apples and string cheese or a fruit salad with walnuts.

Extend the healthy snacking concept to your children, especially with after school snacks.  Bookwork Apple Bark or Banana in a Blanket are fun, healthy, kid-friendly snacks that will hold them over until dinner and give them energy to do their homework.

The Fruits & Veggies–More Matters website has lots of great snack recipes you can try.  They’re all healthy options and will keep you fueled without adding extra fat and calories.

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