Constantly wondering how to get your kids to eat healthier food? Wonder no more. All it takes is a little parental slight of hand and finicky eaters will enthusiastically devour their omega-3 oils, legumes, nuts, and even veggies. Is it worth it? You bet. By making simple changes now, you'll help your kids avoid obesity, heart disease, and diabetes later, says pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD, author of Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children.
We're all on board with that, right? And it's never too soon. The American Heart Association urges parents to focus on healthy eating habits in kids as young as 2. Yes, 2.
Here are five sneaky ideas to boost the nutrition in everyday favorite foods. Just think, no more begging and bribery. And no more food pushed around the plate en route to the garbage can.
All kids, toddlers to teens, love smoothies, and lots of parents quietly blend in some soy powder, extra fresh or frozen fruit, and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate to up the nutrients.
Add a splash of omega-3-rich flax oil too. They'll never taste it and omega-3s help boost immunity and heart health, fight cancer, and promote brain growth.
What kid doesn't like spaghetti? If the sauce is based on tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and the pasta's whole wheat, you've already got a healthy dish going.
Boost marinara sauce's nutrition by adding minced steamed carrots or even stirring in a jar of pureed baby-food carrots. Your kids will never notice the extra veggies.
Tuna fish salad:
Minimize the mayo, add finely chopped celery, and you're off to a good start.
Do what smart gourmet markets do to stretch their tuna salad profits: Mash and smash white beans, stir in as if they were mayo, and you've instantly upped the protein and fiber in your child's sandwich.
Breaded chicken pieces are a fave with kids across America but the fast-food versions are a nutritional wasteland. That's easy to fix at home. Just use whole-wheat breadcrumbs and bake, don't fry the chicken. Make big batches and freeze in pint-size portions.
To slip in some more healthy omega-3s, simply mix ground walnuts -- a good source of these good fats -- into the breadcrumbs.
What kid doesn't do backflips for blueberry pancakes? And the super-nutritious berries add vitamins and healthy plant nutrients.
Stir some yummy, nutty-tasting ground flaxseed meal (available at any health-food store) into the batter and ramp up the fiber, protein and omega-3 content.