1. Strive for five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Through the course of the day, keep track of your family’s produce intake through meals and snacks. Fruits and vegetables boost metabolism, make your kids feel full and add nutrients that help combat diseases.
2. Look for canned fruits in 100 percent juice. When fresh fruits aren’t available, opt for juice-packed items which have less sugar. As an added bonus, you can save the juice and drink it (pineapple juice is great from the can) or cook with it (try peach juice over cooked chicken).
3. Pack fruit and vegetable snacks for your kids’ lunches. Fresh fruit like plums, pears, apples, bananas and grapes make a fast side dish. Prepackaged options like cut peaches or mixed fruit are also easy options. If you buy prepackaged applesauce, look for the word “natural” on the label – this usually means there are no added sugars. Carrot and celery sticks offer added crunch and fiber.
4. Dole out dried fruit. For handy snacks, keep dried fruits like raisins, cranberries and apricots on hand.
5. Hide veggies inside. Add shredded carrots, celery or zucchini to meatloaf, quick breads, muffins, etc. Kids won’t know they’re there and you’ll add nutrients and fiber to the dish.
6. Offer a build-your-own meal option. Provide fixings so kids can build their own salads (items like spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms, shredded cheese or egg, nuts) or have a baked potato bar where they can add broccoli, cheese, tomato salsa and more.
7. Prep produce right after shopping. Wash and cut a whole cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew as soon as you return home from the store and refrigerate the chunks in an airtight container for an instant go-to snack. Or, wash and dry sprigs of fresh herbs to use in cooking – these add flavor without adding salt or sugar.
8. Stock up on frozen veggies. For hurried weeknight meals, keep bags of frozen veggies on hand that can be microwaved in minutes. Buy single items (peas, corn, carrots) as well as vegetable blends so that you have a different option each night of the week.
9. Focus when ordering fast food. Use your options when ordering fast food. Many chains today offer produce selections as part of the meal. Have your kids order healthful options like sliced apples and oranges instead of fat-laden fries.
10. Step it up. Even preschoolers can do a simple walk around the block or neighborhood as a good source of exercise. To keep them interested, play a game of “I Spy” as you go (Can you find a green house? How many trucks can you find parked on the street? How many times can you see the number “7” on this walk?).