Vegetables! We all know they're good for the body, and summer is the perfect time to make sure we're eating plenty of vegetables. Here are my tips and tricks for making sure my family gets their fill of veggies!
1. Prep ahead. This one is key: Make sure your fridge is stocked with ready-to-eat veggies. Whether this means cutting carrot sticks by the bag-full or buying baby carrots, do what it takes. Celery, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, and sugar snap peas are some of our favorite fresh vegetables. Have your favorites ready so when you're hungry, you grab them.
Tip: My boys (8 and 6) love to help me peel carrots or make veggie sticks! And kids love eating food that they're helped grow or prepare, so that's an added motivation to get them in the kitchen and involved.
Plan Ahead for Healthy Snacks
5 Ways to Make Food Prep More Fun
Salads for the week: Making time for healthy eating
11 Tips for Kids in the Kitchen Without Losing Your Sanity
2. Give fewer options at meal times or snack times, and include veggies. If you serve a dinner of three different foods, you'll end up eating more of each item than if you serve five foods. Unless you're serving several vegetable dishes, limit the choices for everyday dinners and snacks and your children will surprise you by eating more -- because they're still hungry! :)
Tip: Only buy/offer healthy snacks and if they're hungry, that's what they'll eat.
3. Have a 1-bite rule. If certain family members don't like vegetables, require at least 1 bite of the vegetable being served, especially if you're offering dessert. Our children don't get dessert unless they have eaten each of the "regular" foods.
Tip: For foods they like, such as carrot or celery sticks, we often use their age as a requirement for what they should eat. E.g. the 8-year-old needs to eat 8 pieces, the 4-year-old only 4. If they're not hungry enough to eat that, then they don't get dessert (if we're having dessert). Left to their own ways, they would surely be "too full" for the veggies and hungry for treats or snacks later! ;)
4. Serve main dish salads.
Tip: My family likes it when I make main dish salads but don't combine everything. Joshua then makes his own salad, adding some extra meat or protein. The kids often have their "salads" as piles of separate ingredients on their plates and prefer to eat it that way rather than mixed together. I make my salad more along the lines of the original recipe. In the end, we're all satisfied and had fun eating dinner together. :)
5. Make soup; sneak them in. I'm not about being sneaky in the kitchen (Joshua's nose and eyes are much too keen for that!) but I've found that it's easy for us to eat bowl after bowl of vegetable soup or another healthy soup filled with veggies.
Other recipes can handle having a few extra veggies thrown in as well, especially if it's something in season and you're bursting at the seams with extras! :)
6. Serve and eat the veggies first at meal times. We like to serve small portions of the main dish with a hearty helping of vegetables, and the plate needs to be completely cleared before second-helpings of the main dish are given. This should be done age-appropriately, of course; our children almost always clean their plates and have seconds of whatever they liked best.
7. Serve veggies at every meal and every dinner. Having pizza? Serve veggies or a salad on the side. Don't let one-dish meals with a few veggies buried beneath cheese sauce or gravy be the only vegetable you serve at dinner!
Tip: Cook some frozen veggies, make a salad, or pull out your already-prepped raw veggies for a fast, healthy side dish. You'll eat less pizza that way, too. ;)
8. Eat what's in season for the best quality. Vegetables are best when they're at their freshest, so eat what's in season (often also on sale!) or ready in your garden. This helps get some natural variety in your vegetable intake, as well.
Tip: Buy frozen veggies and mix for variety; buy frozen stir-fry veggies for a pre-done mixture that's a cinch to cook and serve.
Costco's Stir-Fry Vegetable Blend: Preheat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add oil and frozen veggies. Sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds. Stir frequently and saute until crisp-tender. Serve with grilled or baked fish, chicken, or meat of your choice!
9. Get creative with how you're serving your veggies. Don't just boil or steam them. Boil, steam, grill outside, saute on the stove top, or roast in the oven for more variety and flavor!
Tabbouleh, one of my top favorite summer salads
10. Find veggie alternatives for a less-healthful ingredient. Instead of serving tacos in flour tortillas, serve them in iceberg lettuce leaves or artisan lettuce "cups". Instead of stuffing tuna salad into a pita, serve it over a green salad. Load up that omelet with diced tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers and cut back the cheese.
Tip: If your family's not on board with lettuce cup taco tortillas, remember: you can serve everything separately and they can pick and choose. Maybe they'll want to try one after they see you enjoying yours! :)
This post is part of the Eat Well, Spend Less series! I'll be back with more from this series in a couple days! :)