Ah, history's great rivals: Rocky fought Apollo Creed, David worried over Goliath, Dorothy had the Wicked Witch to contend with – and kids do daily battle against veggies.
Parents, teachers and grown-ups alike have come to expect the classic “yuck” face that appears immediately after passing out the broccoli, spinach or anything else that began its life in a garden. This attitude stems back generations (no pun intended), but today's kids are bombarded with food-related advertising and imagery like no generation before them. Cartoon characters promote sugar-loaded snacks during Saturday morning TV shows; fast food giants like McDonald's and Burger King promise toys with their burgers and chicken nuggets – what more could a kid ask for? It's certainly understandable if today's parents have a hard time turning their kids away from the drive-through and on to healthy fruits and vegetables.
Kids are creative and easily engaged – they will oftentimes be coaxed into trying new things if they can help with the selection or preparation; they love to be given choices and included in things. Make leafy greens more interesting by adding diced string cheese, strawberries or raspberries. Add healthy fats with almonds or walnuts that have been toasted with olive oil and a small amount of sugar. Skip the bottled dressing and use a touch of Greek yogurt sweetened with honey. Creamier and more protein-packed than regular yogurt, kids will be pleasantly surprised by it's rich texture.
For entrees, think kid-approved classics like whole-wheat mac and cheese with cauliflower or carrots – but skip the boxed versions! A recipe that uses whole-grain noodles and low-fat cheeses will be as satisfying as it is delicious. Check out great online resources like thefoodnetwork.com and parenting.com for recipes. The ladies of the Lifetime TV show “Cook Yourself Thin” have an excellent recipe for slimmed-down mac and cheese; check out their cookbook of the same name for plenty of family-friendly recipes.
Lastly, don't make rash assumptions about what your kids will or won't eat – give them plenty of culinary opportunities, and you might discover that your child loves hummus and carrot sticks, or prefers baked sweet potato fries. Give them the tools and knowledge to make healthy choices for a lifetime!