If you’re a parent you know that babies are famous for putting just about anything in their mouths. As kids get older, they become more particular, to the point of the other extreme: the kid who won’t eat much of anything. Sometimes one family hosts a variety of picky eaters, making prepping healthy meals something of a challenge!
And one of the most perennial food challenges is how to increase your daily veggies. With so many adults even struggling to incorporate more plant-strong foods in their diet, it’s no surprise that kids have a hard time eating nutrient-dense foods. Teenagers just don’t want salads. But there are ways of creatively upping the green quotient at the dinner table or in the lunchbox.
Mix up the BBQ Fixings
Chances are your kids already like to eat what you’re grilling. But barbeques are traditionally pretty slim on veggies, unless you count tomato slices and iceberg lettuce. Adding a little seaweed bumps up the nutrition, but since it also boosts the umami of other flavors – like cheese and ketchup – even fussy eaters won’t even notice how good it is for them!
- Hot dogs: Splash teriyaki sauce in some mayonnaise, mix well and slather on a bun or toast. Top with some seaweed crumbles or shreds. Tastes like summer vacation, only better.
- Burgers: Whatever burger you fancy - beef, turkey, tempeh, veggie – layer on a few roasted seaweed squares next to the cheese. The wasabi flavor cranks up the heat a bit!
Stick with What They Already Love
What do your kids already know and like to eat? Sneak in some seaweed wherever you can. Try adding crumbles to:
- Plain buttered noodles. Or spice up it up more with garlic powder and parmesan.
- Nachos. Extra umami makes them even more decadent-tasting (yet better for you)
- Grilled cheese. Sprinkled over the tomato soup, too!
- Pizza. Okay, we admit we haven’t tried this one yet, but we’ve heard it’s a game changer.
- Packaged / box mixes. Box mixes and convenience foods have their time and place: camping, emergency travel meals, teenagers who missed dinner. Adding umami via seaweed really perks up ramen, instant noodles, soup cups, and mac & cheese.
- Sushi. Wait, really? Yes! Some children’s taste buds mature quickly. If they are willing to give grown up food a try, they might find something new to love. California rolls make great entry-level sushi.
Plant-forward “Slim Jims”
Start with a familiar snack. Totally meatless, these nori treats look a bit like those classic convenience store pepperoni sticks, as long as you roll them…well, slim! On one edge, spread a bit of nut butter – we like almond. Pile on extra nuts and seeds if you want, like sunflower, pumpkin or sesame. Then wrap tightly, and snack easy.
Kid-Friendly Peanut Slaw
This one is super simple. Use store-bought peanut sauce and pre-cut slaw mix if you’re in a hurry, or if you have the time, make your own slaw with the kids so they learn to eat the rainbow: purple cabbage slices, orange grated carrot, red and yellow bell pepper sticks, and green cucumber dice. Drizzle on some peanut sauce – that’s the key flavor for a salad your kids will like to eat. Add nori flakes and some whole peanuts for crunch. It’s a fresh, filling, family-friendly side dish – a solid alternative to fries for burger night, or a healthy go-to option for college-age kids – so easy to assembled in a dorm room.
Of course, we don’t recommend suddenly putting giMme in everything all at once, or your kids might start to wonder! But start with a little here and there, and build on your successes. After all, when it comes to nutrition, every little bit counts!