The last time I went through the lunch line at school on a parent visit, the vegetable-du-jour was French fries. The broccoli salad — which wasn’t bad — was left untouched by all but me at the end of the “harvest bar.” Unless we are packing our kids’ lunches, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are not choosing the lonely vegetable over the fries. Even if we pack our kids’ lunches as I do 99 percent of the time, it’s no sure thing those vegetables got eaten either.
Breakfast does tend to be a blur in the mornings. Snacks, if packaged, tend to be a nutritional wasteland. This leaves that one chance a day at dinner to score a few veggies into the mix. It’s a long shot, isn’t it? But, there are ways even in the busiest of our days to add some of those heart-healthy foods.
Who says vegetables aren’t for breakfast? You can try a blueberry-beet smoothie, or a kale, apple and avocado version to get out the door with a few servings of veggie before the day gets going full force.
Super Green Smoothie: Blend one peeled, seeded avocado with one cup no sugar added apple juice, one cup of ice, a handful of baby kale (cleaned), squeeze of lemon juice, and one Tbs. of agave juice. A few mint leaves adds some great flavor, too.
Packing lunches can add some extra time to the day, but it’s worth it if your school lunch program isn’t the best. We keep washed, cut veggies ready to go to add to lunch boxes with hummus or dressing as a dip. Moms know dips and hands-on are the way to go for encouraging veggie consumption. Research backs this up, too! For an added bonus, dips can be made with vegetables like hummus (beet hummus or lemony lima bean!) and guacamole.
A thermos of hot vegetable or tomato soup adds some variety to that cold lunch box rut and offers a kid-friendly veggie portion, too.
Snacks to Add Nutrition, Not Junk to Kids’ Diets
The dips above are great for snacks, too. But if your kids need some crunch, try homemade (not microwave) popcorn or homemade pita chips made with whole grain pita bread for fiber. Brown rice cakes or celery and apple slices with peanut butter, and trail mix made with mostly nuts and a bit of dried fruit are great handy snacks that offer heart healthy boosts.
A small piece of fruit like an apple or a banana is nature’s perfect single serving snack with no packaging waste! Snacks don’t have to be unhealthy.
Our favorite vegetable at dinner right now is one that we all agree on: build your own salad bar. Choose a few of your family’s favorites to have prepped and chopped, wash and prep dark leafy greens, and have some healthy, homemade dressings with toppings like sliced nuts. Everyone can customize a salad with no arguing and “picking apart” the dish.
Homemade dressings are easy to make and you can use healthy oils like flax seed oil and olive oil. You can even make salad dressings with vegetables like this roasted beet dressing and this avocado ceasar variation.
There you have it! Easy, heart-healthy additions at every time of day! Just one or two extra servings will make a huge difference. Happy Heart Health Month!