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Getting Your Kids to Eat Good Food…Without Them Knowing It!
There’s nothing more frustrating than a child who has a limited diet in spite of all your efforts to expand it. Begging, arguing, withholding or making promises you don’t want to keep just so little Mikey eats his vegetables puts him in charge. And you definitely don’t want that.

When all else fails, I believe that trickery is a parent’s best friend! That said, let me clarify what I mean by trickery.

Healthy foods can be hidden in other foods so that you can fool your kids into thinking they still hold the upper hand. We all know about pudding to increase milk consumption, and fruited gelatin—made with juice, water and fruit pieces—to get in a fruit serving. One food manufacturer has even made a vegetable-based juice that tastes like kid-pleasing fruit juice. But there are other subtle changes you can make to improve your children’s intake of healthy food without letting them know.

For example, it’s amazing what you can bake into cookies: oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, peanut butter and fruit, to name a few ingredients. You can also use fruit as a base for a sweet snack, such as baked apples filled with quick oats, raisins and a little brown sugar topped with frozen yogurt or light whipped cream. Serve it when it’s warm and it’s extra yummy!

A really great recipe for crunchy apple rings comes from Kraft Foods (www.kraftfoods.com). The recipe calls for cored apples sliced into rings and covered with peanut butter and crunchy cereal. A favorite in my house is a scoop of frozen yogurt between two healthy oatmeal cookies, like an ice cream sandwich.

Wheat germ, loaded with B vitamins, can be sprinkled on ice cream. Fruit smoothies and milkshakes using fresh fruit are also big winners. Frozen juice pops are fun to eat and something kids can make themselves using wooden craft sticks and bathroom-sized paper cups. Just remember that orange juice tends to get tart when frozen, so opt for apple, pineapple or grape juice.

A classic child-approved treat is “ants on a log.” All you have to do is slice a banana lengthwise, cover it with peanut butter and top it with raisins. It’s messy but good!

Another certified winner is a fruit trifle. To make it, tear angel food cake, which is fat-free, into large chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl. Mix one large package of instant vanilla pudding according to directions in a separate bowl and let it set for 15 minutes. Next, gently fold one small tub of fat-free, thawed whipped topping into the pudding and pour over the angel food cake, coating the chunks completely.

Last, layer the cake and pudding in a glass bowl with fruits, such as peaches, bananas, kiwi and berries (avoid pineapple). The taste appeals to everyone, and it’s so visually appealing that most children will eat it.

Remember, you can boost your child’s nutrition with any baked good simply by making these changes:
  • Use 100 percent whole-wheat flour instead of white flour
  • Use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil in your recipe
  • Reduce the amount of sugar called for by at least one-third
  • Use juice for some of the liquid ingredients
  • Use egg whites instead of whole eggs
  • If your child is constipated or has hard stools, add raisins to the mix

The key to improving the nutrient intake in any family is to return to whole foods that are prepared at home as much as possible. Involve your children in your food shopping and allow them to participate in choosing a few items. This is a wonderful time to teach kids how to read labels, compare nutrients and see which options are available. While you always have veto power, letting them be part of the planning will also encourage them to try new foods.

Susan M. Leisner RD, IBCLC, RLC Nutritionist & Lactation Consultant