Let’s be honest, green beans and pears don’t compete very well against pizza and Chicken McNuggets, at least not in most kids’ eyes.  If you are like many parents, you might feel like you are swimming against the stream in order to get your kids to eat right – and this can be a frustrating thing. However, it is good to persevere: if you can get your kids into good eating habits now, this can set them up for an entire lifetime of health.  This lifetime of health idea is becoming more important than ever. The CDC estimates that 1 out of 3 American children under the age of 19 are either overweight or obese. This condition can cause serious health complications not only during childhood but during adulthood as well and can significantly impact health and overall quality of life.   However, a veggie- and fruit-rich diet can help reduce these risks. Below are some of the best ways to make sure your kids are eating the best foods possible.

Whip up Some Super Smoothies

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Kids who eat well are able to concentrate and do better while in class and a well-balanced meal can set them up enough energy to do what they need to do at school.  Smoothies are a great part of this kind of healthy breakfast, being loaded with fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants from the many fruits and veggies they contain.  So try your kids out on a smoothies based on apples and kale or carrots and oranges and carrots, two classic combinations which will have your little guys begging for more!

Make Snacks Fun

After-school snacks are another great vehicle for getting more fruits and veggies into your child’s diet. If your kids are like most, they are usually pretty hungry when they get off the bus and dinner could be a few hours off.  So make the after-school snacks fun – and make them count.  Meet them at the door with a plate of sliced-up starfruit or a “caterpillar” made of celery sticks stuffed with some peanut butter and raisins.  This will  

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Consider the Use of “Hidden” Fruits and Veggies

If you don’t mind using a little subterfuge, there are more covert ways to add extra fruits and veggies into your child’s favorite dishes.  For instance, you can puree a mixture of zucchini and squash to pasta sauce and serve them up with your child’s favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe.  Or puree peaches and simply stir them into the breakfast oatmeal.   Chances are your kids will never notice these “secret” ingredients. As you child grows, however, and learns more about the importance of healthy eating, this subterfuge may not always be necessary.  

Get Creative with Cookie Cutter Sandwiches

Cookie cutter sandwiches are great for a light lunch or afternoon or bedtime snack and again, if you play your cards right, they are also a great way to make sure your child’s diet is super healthy.  Making the sandwiches themselves is easy: just get whole wheat or other whole grain bread (for daily fiber), fill it with a healthy filling such as cream cheese and veggies or peanut butter and freshly sliced bananas. Then use cookie cutters to make it into any shape you want.  You can even develop holiday/seasonal themes: leaves for the fall, snowmen for Christmas or bunnies for Easter. These little sandwiches are great for after-school or bedtime snack and some kids might even like them packed up in their brown bag lunches.  

Serve up Some Fruity Desserts

No kids ever complains about dessert, and if you play your cards right, this can be a great way to get them to chow down on fruits while avoiding other sweets that may be higher in fat or not so healthy. A fresh peach cobbler with a topping of made of high-fiber oatmeal and spices and just a little butter is a great summertime treat.  There are also lighter, healthier versions of classic favorites like strawberry shortcake that are high in fruit and low in fat.  In short, these are desserts you can feel good about serving up.  

None of these tips are difficult to fit into your cooking habits – and they might not seem all that major – but if you practice them from day to day, the extra fruits and veggies in your child’s diet – and all the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that they bring – can really add up.  Even better, these small tips can help fight against the rising tide of obesity in American children and reduce their risks of chronic conditions like high cholesterol levels, diabetes, joint disorders and other conditions that stem, at least in part, from poor eating choices.