The Secret Is Out On Fruits and Vegetables

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Say the words fruits and vegetables to some kids, and you may see them running for the hills in fear.

As a parent, you watch in amazement at the curl of their nose when you put a carrot on their plate, but take the carrot away, and replace it with a piece of carrot cake, and suddenly, they can’t get their fork moving fast enough.

“Each meal should consist of a half of a plate of fruits and vegetables, which is according to the new MyPlate nutrition guidelines, which were recently introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture,” said Kathy Gillen, wellness coach and nutritional instructor and Upper St. Clair resident. “But if you cannot get them in at mealtime, incorporate them into their snack time. My own children eat cut-up raw vegetables almost every day as a snack.”

If your kids are not quite to that point, there are some tips and trick on how to sneak these foods into your child’s diet, according to
Gillen’s e-book, Thirty Day Roadtrip to a Healthier Family. Some of these include:

  • Starting slow. Don’t completely makeover your child’s meal in one day.
  • Make daily goals. Keep track of how many servings of fruits and vegetables your child eats daily.
  • Pick one habit a week to work on. For example, if your family drinks pop regularly, give yourselves one week to make the
    switch to water.
  • Add vegetables to meals by shredding them into sauces, tacos, burgers and casseroles. Or, use hummus or guacamole as a dip instead of bottled dressings.
  • Visit a farmers market and allow your children to pick out the fruit.
  • Add fruit to foods like pancakes, muffins and cereal.
  • Sprinkle flaxseed in smoothies, muffins and sauces.
  • Make pizza crust with whole wheat flour.

“If a child will eat zucchini for breakfast, then go for it,” Gillen said. “But as children get older, they get wiser. If mom and dad are not eating zucchini for breakfast, then it becomes almost certain that the child will not, either. So, parents may want to serve a plate of fruits and vegetables for snack time, when kids are usually looking for something to eat. Soon, the child will begin to accept fruits and vegetable snacks to be the norm.”

Eventually, you find your family eating healthier meals and snacks, but then school starts. How can you be sure that what you taught your children over the summer will follow them through the school day?

“The minute children walk out the door for school begins the dawn of a new independence, which is why it is so crucial to instill the principles of healthy eating at home,” Gillen stressed. “Parents must continually talk about food, experiment with meals and involve their kids in making choices. We take numerous precautions for our children’s health, but we do not safeguard them by really teaching them about food.”

For more information about sneaking vegetables into your child’s diet, download Gillen’s e-book or visit her website at

The following is a kid-friendly recipe found in the May 2011
issue of Parents magazine:

Carrot-Cake Parfait

1 6 oz. container low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 Tbs. shredded carrot

1 Tbs. raisins

1 Tbs. chopped or ground walnuts

Honey (optional)

Ground cinnamon

Spoon about 1/3 of the yogurt into a 6- to 8-oz. glass. Sprinkle carrots over yogurt. Cover with another 1/3 of the yogurt. Top with
raisins and then remaining yogurt. Garnish with walnuts (grind them for kids under 4), a squirt of honey, if desired, and cinnamon. Makes one.


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