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By Jami Haberl on Monday, March 19, 2018

5 ways to sneak in more veggies at dinnertime

Iowa’s 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count program focuses on instilling lifelong healthy eating and exercise habits among children and teens. The results-focused program has four key components to help families make healthy choices each and every day. One of the four elements is encouraging young Iowans to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

If dinnertime is approaching and the kids are short on their daily goal, below are 5 easy ways to incorporate more vegetables and keep it on the DL.

  1. Pasta: add finely shredded or pureed veggies like broccoli, squash, carrots or bell peppers to the spaghetti sauce for extra nutrition. And by “finely shredded” we mean small as you can, choosy eaters can spot a green veggie from a mile away!
  2. Burgers & Fries: Finely-chopped mushrooms looks similar to ground beef, so try adding them into hamburger patties or sloppy joes. Oven-baked sweet potato fries are full of vitamins A and C, while crisp carrot fries are perfect for dipping. All they need is a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
  3. Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes: Use 1 (1 lbs. bag) of frozen cauliflower florets, or if in season, a fresh cauliflower cleaned and cut into chunks. Steam until soft (5-8 minutes), drain and pour into mixer or large bowl. Add butter (2 tbsp.), minced garlic (1 clove) and salt and pepper. Mix or mash with a potato masher until butter is melted and there are no chunks. Sprinkle on a little cheese or chives for extra flavoring.
  4. Mac & Veggie Cheese: for a quick, easy meal use a regular box of mac & cheese and add in a squeeze package of squash or sweet potatoes toddler/baby food right before you mix in the cheese and milk and it completely disappears! Squash and sweet potatoes offer a boost of Vitamins A, C and E.
  5. Hidden Veggie Pizza: when making homemade pizza (you know, a package of dough or store bought crust, sauce and toppings) blend together 1 package of frozen spinach and 1 cup of sliced mushrooms into the pizza sauce before spreading it out on your crust. Add your usual toppings and cheese and bake for 12 – 15 minutes and no one will be the wiser. Beyond a ton of vitamins like C, E and K, spinach is also a great source of fiber. The mushrooms are full of B vitamins.

So, why 5 servings per day? A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides vitamins and minerals, important for supporting growth and development, and for optimal immune function in children. High daily intakes of fruits and vegetables among adults are associated with lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and possibly, some types of cancers. Emerging science suggests fruit and vegetable consumption may help prevent weight gain, and when total calories are controlled, may be an important aid to achieving and sustaining a healthy weight. 

To learn more about the Iowa 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count program click here