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Getting children to eat healthily can sometimes feel like an impossible task.  However, there are ways to sneak nutrition into your children’s meals.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 9-13 should be consuming:

  • 5 ounces of protein
  • 1.5 cups of fruit
  • 1.5 – 3.5 cups of vegetables
  • 5-6 ounces of grains
  • 3 cups of dairy

It can be a challenge to get all that into each day’s meals, especially if you’re dealing with a picky eater.  It’s important to avoid offering meals with little to no nutritional value just to provide caloric intake. Instead, it’s better to introduce healthy foods on a continual basis, even if they’re initially refused.

The good news is, sneaking nutrition into meals for children has never been easier.  Here are some great tips on how to do so.

Replace Junk Food with Healthy Snacks

Replace common junk food options like chips and buttery popcorn with things like homemade trail mix composed of dried fruits and nuts. Be careful with store-bought trail mixes, which can be filled with refined sugars and preservatives. 

Be Sneaky with Nutrients

Many times you can add nutrient-rich foods into everyday meals.  For example, add fruits or fruit purees into baked goods, cereals, and even pancakes.  Additionally, you can add lots of vegetables to pizza, replace mayo with avocado and cook with leaner meats like ground turkey instead of ground beef.

Emphasize the “Rainbow Plate” With Your Kids

The more variety of color, the more diverse the nutrients.  Encourage your children to eat colorful meals by cooking with red and yellow peppers, spinach and broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. 

Blend Greens Into Smoothies

Who doesn’t like a good smoothie, especially in the Arizona summer? They’re sweet, cold, and perfect for hiding vegetables.  Adding greens like kale or spinach are easy to hide in a fresh fruit smoothie.

Use Pureed Vegetables Everywhere You Can

A common method of sneaking vitamins and minerals into kids’ meals is via pureed vegetables.  Things like marinara sauce are great choices for camouflaging blended zucchini and carrots

Share Meals Together as a Family

Family meals can be beneficial for parents and children alike.  Studies also show that kids who participate in family meals are more likely to eat healthier foods and less likely to snack on unhealthy convenience foods. Family meals can also serve as a great opportunity to introduce children to new, healthy foods. 

Get Kids Involved

Most kids enjoy getting to have a say in what to make for dinner.  By talking to them about healthy food choices and inviting them into meal planning and preparation, they’ll begin to learn healthy diet habits that will serve as a foundation for the rest of their lives. In the kitchen, you can select age-appropriate tasks for your children so they can play a part without getting overwhelmed or injuring themselves.  You may even opt to take them along to the grocery store to teach them the difference between healthy and unhealthy options. 

Be a Role Model

Kids are always watching what their parents do.  One of the best ways to teach your children about healthy food habits is to exhibit those habits yourself.