We all know by now that we should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Many nutritionists say it should be at least eight! But knowing and doing are two different things, aren’t they? Sometimes it is just not easy to get them all in there. We are constantly tempted to fill up on convenience and junk food. If your family is anything like mine, they’d much rather fill up on a bag of chips or a bowl of rice or pasta instead of trying an apple or a plate of steamed broccoli. So we’ll have to get creative. Here are a few ideas to “sneak” some extra vegetables and fruits into your family’s diet.
1. Start the day with a breakfast smoothie.
All you have to do is throw some fresh or frozen fruits, leafy greens like spinach or kale, some water, or your favourite form of milk into a blender. Just blend for a few seconds and you have the perfect breakfast ready to go.
You may also want to add a scoop of protein powder in there for good measure. Yoghurt or kefir and nut or seed butter is another way to add protein. Plus, I always add avocado to get some healthy fat and even more of a nutrition boost. The kids can't taste it either.
A scoop of tasteless acacia fibre to feed the healthy gut bacteria is also recommended. Smoothies really are your friend when it comes to hiding veggies and boosting nutrition.
2. Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Sliced or chopped always seems to be more appetizing. You can cut apples into slices and top them with peanut butter or cheese. Cube cheese and serve with grapes or cherry tomatoes. Cut up some fresh veggies and serve them with hummus or a healthy dip. And of course, there is "ants on a log". Spread some cream cheese or peanut butter on the inside of a stick of celery and sprinkle raisins on it. (Yay, for a fruit and vegetable in one snack).
3. Have a salad bar at dinner.
Along with your lettuce or leafy green base, set out a variety of chopped or grated vegetables, some cheese or other protein, (like cooked egg, chicken or tinned wild-caught salmon), and let everybody create their own perfect salad.
Be sure to include several choices of salad dressing and a few ways to jazz the salad up. I love things like pinenuts, pomegranate seeds, chopped gherkins, mandarins, and even raisins.
A favourite salad for my kids is grated carrot and beetroot, with finely chopped baby spinach or mint, a few raisins, drizzled in freshly squeezed orange juice and extra virgin olive oil.
4. A small portion of dried fruit makes an excellent snack at any time of the day.
When combined with some nuts and seeds this is certainly a healthier option than a packet of chips. Raisins, dried chopped plums (plum amazins), preservative-free dried apricots, goji berries, prunes, dates are all good options. You can also add dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal in the morning.
5. Add some fruits and vegetables to your family’s sandwiches.
You can add some banana, sliced apples or strawberry slices to a peanut butter sandwich. Top a chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, capsicum, cucumber and anything else they will eat. You can even make a sub shop style vegetable sandwich by combining several different vegetables with some mayonnaise and cheese on bread. Homemade mayo with grated carrot and tuna works well in sandwiches.
6. Try "Nice cream" for dessert.
Blended frozen banana is delicious and has the consistency of ice cream! Add a nut butter, coconut cream, or greek yoghurt for protein. Perhaps a little honey or soft dates if sweetening is required. (I don't feel it's necessary though). Then, have a play with the flavours! Add cacao powder to make it chocolate. Frozen strawberries and/or raspberries for a delicious berry flavour. Frozen mango also works well. Vanilla bean paste or seeds from a vanilla pod is another favourite. Serve with fresh fruit, coconut threads, flaked almonds or other nuts and seeds. It really is SO good!
7. Let them drink their fruits and vegetables.
Fresh juices, although they can be low in beneficial fibre and high in sugar, can be healthy with the right ingredients in the right quantities. Beetroot, cucumber, carrots, ginger, turmeric, lemon, kale, spinach, oranges and apples are just some of the fruits and vegetables that work well in fresh juices. It does require a juicing machine though, and preferably a cold press one. But, it's certainly an option.
You can also get creative. Start “family cocktail hour” by pouring everybody a glass of his or her favourite homemade juice over ice. Add some straws, cocktail umbrellas, and sit together to talk about how everybody’s day went!
8. Try some new fruits and vegetables.
Pick something exotic to get your family’s curiosity. With a little luck, their curiosity will outweigh their initial apprehension of trying something new. Or you could turn it into a game and have them take turns choosing a new fruit or vegetable to try. It could be artichokes, brussels sprouts, plantains, persimmon, papaya, mango, star fruit, or anything else you can find in the produce department of your local store.
9. Hide the veggies by grating them or placing in an egg frittata or muffin.
You possibly already do this with a bolognese sauce, but it even works well for some sweeter treats. Have you tried a chocolate zucchini carrot muffin, or a grated pumpkin or beetroot chocolate cake? They are the best!
Egg frittatas or egg muffins are another way to hide veggies. They are a great on-the-go snack or breakfast option. Simply add veggies like mushrooms, capsicum, sweetcorn, and chopped spinach into the bottom of lined muffin pan holes and cover with beaten egg, salt, and a little Moroccan seasoning. Then, bake in the oven for 25 minutes. It's as easy as that. And, they freeze well.
10. Make a pot of vegetable soup, curry or a stew that’s heavy on veggies and easy on the meat.
Both of these make some great comfort food when the weather gets cold. My kids will eat cauliflower if it's covered in a yellow curry sauce! They'll eat pumpkin as long as it's in a delicious homemade bone broth soup. Celery will be eaten if it's in a stew. Go figure!
Incorporate a few of these ideas and you will have everyone in your family eating more fruits and vegetables in no time.
Here is another tip:
Turn it into a competition. Who can eat the most servings of fruit and vegetables in a day? Maybe there is a reward if you make it to 8, a few times a week? Of course, you'd need to make sure there was plenty of fruit and vegetables on hand though.