(Family Features) – The start of another school year means parents will be looking for ways to set their children up for success in the classroom, including making sure kids are getting healthy fuel for their bodies and minds. With approximately 84 percent of kids trading lunch items with their friends at school*, it’s important parents fill their children’s lunchboxes with items that are both nutritious and enticing.
As a registered dietitian, childhood nutrition expert and mom, Jodie Shield knows first-hand the challenge of ensuring kids eat nutritiously – especially during school hours – but says it’s all about engaging children in the process of proper nutrition and keeping veggies yummy.
Shield has put together some creative tips and fun activities to help get kids excited about eating and loving vegetables.
Take a Dip: Make veggie eating fun and more flavorful by serving ready-to-eat veggie sticks with delicious dips, like low-fat ranch dressing, hummus, pesto, honey mustard or peanut butter.
Teach from Store to Snack: Let your kids help fill the shopping cart at the grocery store with vegetables they’d like to try. And ask them to guess how much four apples weigh, then weigh the fruit to see if they were close. At home, let them help prepare their own lunch. They’ll be proud of the meal they made come lunchtime at school.
Play with Your Food: Combine snack time with activity time. Create veggie critters as an after-school treat by assembling a variety of pre-cut vegetables with ranch dressing “paste” into bug shapes.
For more great back-to-school recipes, creative nutrition tips and fun activities, visit LoveYourVeggies.com.
*American Dietetic Association, August 2004
* 1 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
* 2 8-ounce tubs reduced fat cream cheese
* A wide variety of chopped, colorful vegetables such as asparagus, cherry tomatoes, crinkle cut carrots, baby carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, eggplant, shredded carrots and olives
1. Add the seasoning mix to the cream cheese.
2. Stir until well combined.
3. Using a variety of vegetables – and a little imagination – you can build critters with your child.
Serves: Several hungry after-school snackers
Notes, Tips & Suggestions
Butterflies: Use asparagus for the body. Use the ranch and cream cheese mixture to attach crinkle-cut carrots for wings, and add decorations to the wings with bits of bell pepper.
Lady Bugs: Slice a cherry tomato in half. Use the ranch and cream cheese mixture to attach the tomato to a slice of cucumber or eggplant; attach the other cherry tomato half for the head. Then attach lady bug spots with bits of olive.
Caterpillars: Cut cauliflower into florets. Use the ranch and cream cheese mixture to attach the pieces of cauliflower together. Then attach shredded carrot for legs and asparagus for antennae.
Note: Since there will plenty of the ranch mixture leftover, store it in the refrigerator. It makes a delicious veggie dip.