Do you want your family to eat more nutritious foods but meet resistance when you fix something different? Maybe it's time to get a little sneaky. It's not so much that you have to fool your family into eating healthfully, but habits are hard to break. If you've been serving the same foods over and over, you're bound to hear some whining when you try to make changes.
• Don't think of eating healthfully as taking favorite foods away but rather as adding something new and different. New foods can be exciting and adventurous. Here are some simple ways to sneak healthy foods on the table.
• Salsa is the hot way to sneak some veggies on your plate. Serve it as a dip for baked tortilla or pita chips or even raw veggies like baby carrots. Put salsa on the menu for "make-your-own taco night." Use it with black beans and fat-free sour cream for a spicy baked potato topper.
• Veggie burgers make a simple meatless meal. They come in many flavors, from "flame grilled" to spicy vegetable patties. Try different brands until you find one that agrees with your family's taste buds. Serve them hamburger-style, on whole wheat buns with all the trimmings.
• Kids of all ages love to dip their way to five-a-day. Low-fat ranch dressing for cut-up raw vegetables. Yogurt for bananas and grapes. Peanut butter for apples. They'll get the servings they need without even realizing it.
• If you're having trouble getting your family to eat breakfast, let them make up their own smoothies. Set out a variety of frozen fruit, light plain yogurt, and skim milk and let the blending begin! You don't have to explain how the fruit and calcium will keep them healthy.
• Make extra special pancakes and muffins by adding in your favorite fruit, oats, and nuts. Shred zucchini and carrots for quick breads. Add some whole wheat flour to your recipes that call for white flour.
• Let everyone create their own wrap. Start with tortillas and let them choose from chopped lean meats, fat-free refried beans, vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions, salsa and fat-free sour cream. They'll have so much fun with their colorful creations they may not notice the extra serving of vegetables.
• Try some beans! Sneak them into salads and soups. Toss them with pasta and vegetables. Mash them for burritos. Blend them for bean dip. Shh...only you have to know that beans are high in fiber and a great source of protein.
• Add veggies to traditional favorites. Chop broccoli and add it to macaroni and cheese. Put spinach, carrots, and zucchini in pasta sauce. Chop or grate the veggies up into tiny pieces if you have a picky eater.
• Slip dark green lettuce into salads. Romaine or green leaf lettuce is great mixed in with the standard iceberg.
• Season brown rice with your own herbs and spices. Or use just half of the seasoning packet on boxed mixes.
• Fresh, locally-grown produce will soon be ripe for picking. You could turn tomato haters into tomato lovers with a vine-ripened tomato!
• Make pizza at home. Hide veggies like red or green peppers and tomatoes under low-fat cheese. Feeling even more adventurous? Make up a batch of whole wheat crust for added fiber.
• Gradually wean your family from sugary breakfast cereals by slipping in some high-fiber, whole-grain cereal. Let them add their favorite fruit and nuts; then top it off with skim milk or stir in yogurt.
By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.