Insider’s Viewpoint: Stealth Health for Picky Eaters
Do your kids refuse to eat anything green? Do mealtimes feel more like a food fight than a family night?
Picky eating is a typical behavior for many children and is step of growing up. Incorporating healthier alternatives in the kitchen may seem impossible with a picky eater on your hands, but there is hope for them to acquire healthy habits! Continually exposing kids to new foods and flavors they initially reject will help them overcome picky tendencies. Most kids outgrow these habits but here are some simple strategies to help encourage more adventurous eating.
5 Ways to Help Your Kids Build Healthy Habits
- Be Innovative
- Create fun, low-calorie dipping sauces for fruits and veggies such as Greek yogurt mixed with Ranch seasoning for raw carrots and broccoli.
- Serve dried fruit instead of crackers for a snack, or add dried cherries to pancakes and dried blueberries to a snack mix.
- Replace butter and margarine with avocado on sandwiches or in baked goods.
- Pair new foods or reintroduce old foods along with their favorites to encourage acceptance.
- Experimenting with recipes is a great way to help the picky-eater in your family explore new foods, tastes, and flavors. It also makes cooking fun in the kitchen!
- Incorporate Purées
- Adding vegetable (and/or fruit purées) to your child’s favorite foods can be an effective way to increase essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper nutrition.
- Make purées ahead of time and freeze in ice cube trays or individual containers to quickly add to your meals as you are preparing to save an extra step in cooking.
- Don’t throw away those overripe bananas sitting on your counter. Instead, slice and place in the freezer overnight. Then blend for a creamy ice cream-like treat.
- To increase vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber in your child’s diet, try puréeing yams and carrots. This orange purée can be a healthy and colorful addition to your child’s favorite mac ‘n cheese or pancakes. Chickpeas or great northern beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein and iron and can be easily added to spaghetti sauce or even sugar cookies!
- Let Your Child Help
- Recruiting your child’s help to select fruits and veggies at the grocery store, or rinsing them at home, will make them yearn to try foods that they helped select.
- Let them help prepare foods by your side. Whether they’re slicing, mixing or baking your child will enjoy learning about healthy eating.
- Try New Foods
- Allowing kids to select foods they’ve never seen before exposes your picky eaters to a variety of foods. Don’t be afraid to try something new like a dragon fruit, jicama, or blood oranges (to name a few fun new foods).
- Before your next trip to the grocery store, ask your fussy eater to look for different colors of fruits and veggies to try later. A colorful diet provides vitamins and minerals needed for normal growth in children, as well as short and long term health.
- Lead By Example
- If you try new foods or eat everything you serve on your plate, your child will try and do the same.
- Keep healthy foods where they’re easy to see and easily accessible (e.g. a fruit bowl on your countertop or pre-made snack bags in the fridge).
Cheesy Cauliflower Dippers
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp garlic salt
- Wash and clean cauliflower and cut into chunks. Make sure to remove its core.
- Place cauliflower in a food processor and pulse it until it’s a ‘rice’ consistency.
- In a large saucepan, heat 1-inch of water until it boils. Add in the cauliflower, cover with a lid, and allow it to steam for 4-5 minutes. Watch closely so it doesn’t boil over.
- Preheat oven to 425° F.
- Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the cauliflower. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then place the cauliflower in a clean dish towel- or cheesecloth, and squeeze to remove excess water.
- Once cauliflower rice is drained really well, place into a large bowl. Add ½ cup mozzarella cheese, beaten egg, oregano, basil and garlic salt. Stir the mixture well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Spoon cauliflower mixture onto pan. Using your hands form the mixture into an 8 ½ x 11 inch rectangle.
- Place in the oven for 30 minutes- or until crust is golden brown and firm.
- Remove crust from the oven and top it with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
- Return the pan to oven to bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until cheeses are melted.
- Cut into breadsticks and serve with a warm marinara sauce for dipping.
Green Goodness Smoothie
- ½ avocado
- 2 cups of fresh spinach
- 1 cup of pineapple chunks
- 1 cup of mango chunks, fresh or frozen
- 1 banana
- 5 ice cubes
- ½ cup of pineapple orange juice
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Add the juice last. Blend until creamy in texture.
Kara Behlke, RD, LD