Really Easy Ways to Pack More Nutrition into Kid-Friendly Meals
We all want our kids to eat well and to learn good life-long habits for healthy eating, but it's not always easy to figure out the best approach. According to Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian nutritionist, mom of two girls, and partner to leading school and community meal provider, Revolution Foods, learning how to eat well starts young and continues through to adulthood. Instead of striving for a perfect kid’s plate, Scritchfield recommends taking a “good enough” approach. This way, you’ll be more likely to take consistent, meaningful action toward increasing kids’ access and opportunity to healthy foods when you’re optimistic and hopeful.
Here are a few tips for easy ways Scritchfield recommends to pack more nutrition into your kid’s meals:
Aim for better balance.
Kids often crave one particular food, like chocolate. Use your power of suggestion and say, “You know what, I can give you some yogurt with chocolate chips in it or a banana with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips. Which one sounds good?”
Why this works: Help your kids satisfy their cravings and enjoy nourishing foods. It’s a win-win and it will cut way back on “food fights” at home.
Add color to the “quick meal”.
Most parents are time-starved and take shortcuts with food as a matter of necessity. However, it can be easy to add a pop of color to the plate even when time is tight. For example, during a busy breakfast let your child choose a piece of fruit from a well-stocked fruit bowl and combine it with one of their favorite on-the-go foods, like a slice of cheese, on-the-go cereal, or yogurt pop. Or next time you have a pizza night try adding baby carrots and hummus as a quick and crunchy side dish.
Why this works: All effort is good effort. It’s better to be consistent so your kids learn that you’re the kind of family who adds fruits and vegetables whenever they can, even if it's just a little on the side or before starting your main meal.
Ensure they’re eating better meals at school.
Pack a healthy lunch or work with your school district to get a food provider that exceeds minimum federal standards.
Why this works: Kids will eat a lot of lunches at school. Engaging with your child's school can help ensure they will have access to a menu they’ll love that will offer fresh fruits and vegetables every day, helping to build a positive relationship to healthy eating patterns and showing it's not just Mom who thinks healthy eating is important.
Prep foods with “staying power” ahead of time.
With a little weekend time investment, you can make “mealtime magic” during a busy week. Make overnight oats with plain oats, your favorite milk, fruit (berries, fresh or frozen work great), and nuts or seeds. This nutrient-packed meal could work for a main dish at breakfast or even breakfast for dinner. While you’re prepping, chop a variety of vegetables ahead of time and add them anywhere: eggs in the morning, stir fry at dinner, etc. or just place them on the counter for snacking.
Why this works: Anything you can do to reduce your meal prep effort every day helps reduce stress and the “I can’t” mindset that may have you reaching for the phone to order takeout or for frozen pizza and cookies.
Make it taste good.
You’d be surprised what a little flavor can do for a kids’ interest in crunching on broccoli. Ranch dressing, vegetable dip and guacamole are your flavor friends. Most kids love their vegetables when they are offered a pairing that tastes great, like clean-label ranch or sesame soy dressing made from scratch.
Why this works: Most kids aren’t trying to be picky on purpose. They just know what their taste buds like. Especially when it comes to fresh vegetables, they may need a little help in the flavor department. Kids will still get fiber, vitamins, and minerals even when they dip it in something else delicious too.
Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, even if they rejected it once.
You might be surprised to know that kids may need several opportunities to try a food to find out if they really like it or not. Try offering a different fresh fruit and vegetable every day and rotating foods your kids previously have said they don't like.
Why this works: Kids need some time to figure out what they like or don’t like. Their preferences may change over time as well. By doing what you can to offer a variety of fresh produce every day and offering a variety, you’re showing your kids that fruits and vegetables are important, even if they turn them away from time to time.
To learn more about Scritchfield's approach to healthy eating check out her Body Kindness philosophy, book, and podcast,