Getting in the recommended servings of fruits and veggies a day can be challenging. The USDA developed the MyPlate recommendations to guide us on nutritional needs that adjust based on age and gender. For example, girls ages 9-13 need about 4 ½-cup portions of vegetables per day while boys of the same age need about 5. Add the 3 ½-cup portions of fruit both girls and boys ages 9-13 need and you’re up to about 6-7 servings per day for that age group. Incorporating produce during snack time and working in a vegetable as a side for meals can help get our children close to the recommendation but even then, it can be difficult for some children to meet the recommendation.
One solution is to play the game of Hide-and-Go-Seek. Work in fresh produce where you might not expect it.
· Sauces - one of my favorite examples is adding steamed broccoli florets to any marinara or cheese sauce. If you are all out of broccoli, substitute with diced bell peppers or zucchini. You’ll hardy know the vegetables are even there.
· Casseroles - similar to the sauce example above, considering adding peas or diced canned tomatoes to any casserole. Peas have a mild flavor and usually work right into the flavor profile of the dish.
· Pizza - at a minimum add diced tomatoes to all your pizza combinations. The tomato flavor is already present in the pizza sauce but the skin from the actual tomatoes adds some additional nutrients. Also consider adding some bell pepper or mushrooms or both. The strong flavor of the cheese and other meat toppings often overpower any flavor from the vegetables, so the final product is similar to the original flavor but with nutrient pizzazz.
· Tacos - add strips of sliced fresh spinach leaves on top of any taco. It’s as easy as taking a pair of kitchen shears and stacking 5-6 spinach leaves on top of one another before cutting into ½ in strips. The additional nutrients that even a few spinach leaves contribute is phenomenal and the pop of color adds some fun.
· Baked goods - add grated zucchini or carrots, pureed spinach or applesauce to muffin batter or cookie dough. This not only adds nutrients but can add some needed moisture as well.
· Sandwich - add sliced tomatoes, cucumber, sprouts, or substitute a dark leafy green for iceberg lettuce for a quick way to work in that produce.
· Cereal - fruit is a natural pair to any hot or cold cereal. Sliced berries or raisins are easy to include with the bowled breakfast. Consider slicing the berries the night before to remove time obstacles the morning of.
You will reach your recommended servings of daily fruits and vegetables before you know it playing this fun game of Hide-and-Go-Seek!