Get veg-u-cated! | MomsCharlotte.com
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Get veg-u-cated!

“Veg-ucate” Your Kids About Good Eating Habits This Spring

Ask any parent what foods kids want and what foods kids need, and they’ll tell you the two rarely meet. In most cases, hot dogs trump tomatoes and animal crackers buck broccoli, causing many parents to wonder what they can do. But with spring blooming, green thumbs coming out of hibernation and gardens glowing in a few weeks, now is the perfect time to “veg-ucate” kids to like, and even want, veggies.

Vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals such as fiber, potassium and Vitamins A and C. These nutrients are important for healthy skin, teeth and protection against infections. They will also set a good stage for future benefits such as a decreased risk of coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

But try telling that to your kids.

“Veggies and kids usually don’t mix. But the eating habits kids have now will play out over the rest of their lives. That’s why good diet and nutrition is so important,” says Tessa Stamper, chef and registered dietician at fast-casual restaurant Noodles & Company. “There’s no shortage of tips and tricks for sneaking vegetables into your son’s or daughter’s foods. The key, however, is to get them to like eating veggies so you’re not mixing and pureeing for the next 10 years.”

Keep in mind what the USDA recommends. For kids who get about 30 minutes of exercise each day, the USDA suggests 2- to 3-year-olds eat 1 cup of vegetables every day and 4- to 8-year-olds get 1 ½ cups per day. Girls 9- to 13-years-old should have 2 cups and boys 9 to 13-years-old should have 2½ cups.

So what’s a struggling parent to do?

Chef Tessa Stamper offers these tips and tricks for integrating a spring semester in Veg-ucation into your household.

  • Plant a lesson plan: Kids feed off interaction and excitement. Encourage your children to help you plant a vegetable garden. Then, when the vegetables are ready for picking, let your child choose which ones they want to pick for evening meals. Take advantage of the process and show them how taking care of the garden will in-turn help take care of their bodies.
  • Leverage those teachable moments: As your family’s self appointed ‘veg-ucator’ you’ll have to practice what you preach and set a good example. Look for subtle ways to include vegetables in your own daily routine, such as adding raw veggies to your lunch or snacking on carrots rather than chips on the weekends.
  • Experiment together: Even the best lesson plans don’t score an A+ overnight, so be patient and make it fun. Include your kids in your weekly meal planning sessions and let them add the veggies to a pot or skillet during meal preparation. Perhaps let them brush on the olive oil before the eggplant hits the grill or ask them to sort the veggie platter by color.
  • No cheating: No question, sneaking carrots into muffins and blending different veggies and adding them to a PB&J or bowl of oatmeal may slip vegetables past your kids. Unfortunately, all that does is cheat them out of long-term good eating habits. Besides, your blender will appreciate the break.
  • Take field trips: Every family wants a night out now and again. On those occasions, look for restaurant options that shy away from french fries and onion rings.
  • When it comes to healthy eating in your home, remember the long-term benefits of veg-ucating your kids about the importance of eating their vegetables.

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