Spring Ahead! Six Tips for Healthier Eating

— Written By Whitney Watson and last updated by

In recognition of the coming spring and National Nutrition Month in March, we want to help you and your family eat healthier together. We know it’s not easy. Preparing a healthy snack isn’t as quick as grabbing a pre-packaged one (although it can be pretty fast). Whether your kids are picky eaters, or you’re just too overwhelmed between work and parenting to even think about introducing more nutritious food, hopefully these 6 tips can help.

Child looking at blueberries

DON’T ASK, JUST DO. Sometimes simply cutting up fruits or vegetables and eating them with your children can increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Ask them if they want apples, and you might get a “no.” But try this: put some sliced apples or blueberries or carrots in a bowl on the table for snack time. Don’t order your children to eat them, but just talk or play a game at the table and watch as the food (most likely) disappears.

BUILD A RITUAL. Creating a weekly ritual can get kids excited about trying new fruits and veggies. Introduce “Try it Tuesdays” (or whatever evening works best for you), and make this the night your kids taste and rate a new fruit or vegetable. They can just give a thumbs up or thumbs down, and you can write down the results as evidence for later (YES…you really did like that kumquat, see??).

COLOR CODE.  A fun way to incorporate new and healthy foods into dinner is to have a meal centered around one color. Maybe you have a “red night,” and serve pasta with tomato sauce, red peppers, and strawberries. This works equally well for green (lots of veggies!), yellow, orange, and even blue/purple (think of eggplants, blueberries and meats cooked with plums). And by letting kids choose the color and come with you to the store to get the ingredients, they will have a greater sense of ownership and connection to the meal.

MAKE THEM TASTE GOOD. Introduce healthy ingredients into foods your kids already love. For mealtime, add some grated or shredded zucchini, spinach or carrots into your kids’ favorite recipes, such as lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, rice dishes and muffins. Or for a snack, try smoothies – a delicious, easy and super-healthy treat that many kids love. Try this: Pour some low-fat milk, fresh or frozen strawberries, and a banana into a blender. Turn it on for a few minutes and voila! Done. Anything goes in a smoothie and if made right, these drinks can make any healthy food (even spinach!) taste good.

GO EASY ON YOURSELF. Look at how much nutritional food your children are eating for the week, versus the day. Don’t beat yourself up over one day where the kids have way too much starch, and not enough fruit or veggies, for example. If you keep in mind what they ate in the days before, you’ll probably find plenty of healthy food groups represented, and that’s a good thing!

TRY, TRY AGAIN… Don’t get discouraged. Even if kids don’t like a new fruit or veggie the first time, try serving it again. Researchers have found that children may need 8 to 15 offerings of a new food before they decide to like it. So stay strong!

For more information, call Whitney Watson, Martin County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent at (252) 789-4370.

Source: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/newsletter/spring-ahead-6-tips-healthier-eating/

Martin County FCS Upcoming Events

Cook Smart, Eat Smart Cooking School – Deadline to sign-up is June 22, 2018. Space is limited. Class dates will be July 12, August 2, August 23, September 6. Time: 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Cost: $10.00. Visit the Martin County Extension Office to sign-up for this program.