Most doctors and dietitians believe that getting important vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat is the very best way to to support a healthy body. It makes sense, right: generations long ago just ate healthy diets rather than make up for a fast-food diet with vitamins.
For parents with picky eaters, food allergies or other meal hurdles to face (time, money, skills, interest), that’s not always an easy task, even with the long list of health benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in colors of the rainbow. Even in our home where we strive to get everything we need from food, it’s really hard to eat a full rainbow of nutrients from fruits and vegetables…every day.
How to make it happen?
First, it’s great to have a goal of eating a variety of colors each day but it’s also ok to go for balance across the week. Set realistic goals rather than set yourself up for failure.
We also gathered up six different meal ideas that help ensure your family can get a variety of nutrients from real food, without spending a ton of time or money to get make it happen. Let us know what you think in the comments below – and give us a few new ideas too!
Stir Fry – Almost any vegetable tastes good when sauteed in a stir fry. Some of our favorites include carrots, broccoli, peas, bok choy, snow peas, tomatoes, spinach and kale. Try different sauces like plum or peanut, to encourage your children to try new flavors.
Smoothies - Some children might look at a smoothie and think: milkshake! Only you have to know that it’s good for them when you use low-fat yogurt or almond milk, lots of fresh or frozen fruit, and protein from peanut or almond butter. Try Patrick’s Best Berry Banana Smoothie or make up your own favorite recipe (many times I toss spinach or other leafy greens when they aren’t looking and no one has noticed!).
Mix-Ins – Find new ways to incorporate vegetables into dishes like meatloaf (shredded carrots), meatballs (spinach), quesadillas (tomatoes), macaroni and cheese (peas) or other meals your children already enjoy.
Soup – If your child enjoys savory foods, try pureed vegetables like butternut squash, topped with some bacon, chopped nuts or parmesan cheese. A grilled cheese sandwich dipped into tomato soup is a great way to warm up a cold day.
Snacks - Keep a variety of washed and prepped fruits and vegetables where your children can see them and have access to them throughout the day for snacks. Easy pop ‘em snacks include grapes, berries, carrots or celery (you can wash, slice & keep in a container for a day or two), red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes or snow peas.
Make it Fun – Next time you visit the market, talk to your child about all the different colors in the produce department and that they each have special ways to keep our bodies strong and healthy. Ask your child to help you make sure that you bring home the full rainbow, what their favorites are or what new colors they’d like to try.
Keep in mind that it can take seven to ten times with a new taste or texture for your child to like it. Take it easy, have patience, and try to offer a nice variety. Small improvements count!
Tell us…what’s your favorite way to add color to your child’s meals?
Need more ideas? Try the Today I Ate a Rainbow Kit for your little ones! It made a huge difference in our house. And years later my kids still use it!