You’ve tried pleading. You’ve tried extravagant praise (“Great job eating your peas, honey!”). You’ve even tried bribery. When your kid won’t eat—due to pickiness, side effects of medications, or developmental issues—it’s hard not to get stressed out. Is she taking in all the nutrients she needs to grow and be healthy?
Here’s one way to be sure: Treat every meal or snack as an opportunity to get more bang for your nutritional buck. Kids need a focus on the right foods to help their bodies grow. (Of course, if you’re really worried, check in with your pediatrician.)
We’ve got five nutrient-dense ideas to get you started:
- Kick off the day with a smoothie, but instead of plain milk use 8 ounces of vanilla, strawberry, or banana-flavored PediaSure, which provides 7 grams of protein and 25 different vitamins and minerals. Pour it over a handful of frozen berries and sliced banana in a blender jar and pulse.
- Buy avocados in bulk. Healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals make the avocado a kid-friendly nutritional powerhouse. Add it to smoothies, spread it on toast (sprinkled with lime juice and flaky salt: super-trendy!), mash it up for a nutrient-packed mayo substitute, transform it into chocolate pudding—or if your kid likes the flavor, serve it plain.
- Add vegetables to favored foods—broccoli bits in the mac and cheese, chopped spinach in the quesadilla, butternut squash puree in the pancake batter. Start with just a little, and once your child accepts it add more to the next batch.
- Reinvent family favorites with nutritional upgrades. In your famous baked ziti, for example, use whole-wheat pasta instead of regular, and add roasted peppers or shredded carrots (or both!) to the sauce. Next time you make chili use more beans and vegetables, less beef. Replace half the spuds in your mashed potatoes with mashed, steamed cauliflower.
- Boost your baked goods: Simple tweaks can make dessert as nutrient-friendly as the main course. Try adding rolled oats to your chocolate chip cookies, or pureed beets to your brownies. In most quickbreads, you can replace half the butter with yogurt or unsweetened applesauce. And if you’re not already using whole-wheat flour regularly, it’s time to stock up.
How do you help your child cover the nutritional bases?