Feeding your family the daily five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables may seem a chore, but it can truly be as easy as A-B-C. Though your kids are more likely to reach for fruit (a healthier alternative to candy bars and sugary juice) than vegetables, you can easily "sneak" veggies into their meals by letting your kids pick their favorite leafy green, crucifer or even type of mushroom at the market and then involve the whole family in turning the veggies into a kid-friendly meal. Including fruit in your savory meals is also a tasty way to get more fruit into your kids too.
Dairy is an essential component of a balanced diet, offering a delicious source of calcium, vitamin D, protein and other health-promoting nutrients. Milk, yogurt and cheese are also versatile in the kid-friendly kitchen and can be eaten at every meal of the day. If your family has a dairy allergy, keep reading: we've also got tips to keep your kitchen dairy-free.
Like adults, kids often crave sweets. Whether they have a true affinity for candy, ice cream and baked treats, or simply want to copy what their friends eat, your kids can get in the kitchen and make their own sweets.
If your kids wrinkle their noses at eating common vegetables, like cauliflower or spinach, oddly named or strange looking veggies may pique their veggie intrigue. If cauliflower isn't a hit, send them on a produce treasure hunt for Jerusalem artichokes. Lettuce may not be their favorite, but curly kale may keep their interest. If beans aren't their favorite, try red or yellow lentils for a change.
Whole grains offer more taste, texture and nutrients compared to processed "white" grains. Full of fiber, B vitamins and more, whole grain baked goods, cereals, pastas and rice dishes are easy to transform into healthy, satisfying dishes, can conveniently be kept on-hand and give your family a near endless array of mouthwatering recipes to try.
Lean proteins are essential in your family's diet, providing the building blocks for strong muscles and supporting bodily functions. And we aren't talking about double-patty burgers or the questionable meat in hot dogs. Aim to feed your family both animal and plant sources of protein, choosing leaner cuts of meats and poultry, eggs, fish, beans, nuts and modest amounts of dairy for meals and snacks.
Ethnic foods give your kids a taste of global cuisine and an opportunity to learn about cultures outside of the U.S. Make one night a week an ethnic cuisine night, letting your kids choose a country and which of that country's signature recipes to make for dinner.
As you head to the end of the alphabet, make meal planning a game. Have your kids write down all the foods they can think of that start V, W, or X. Their creative minds may just surprise you with dishes you can't help but make.
Colorful meals are more likely to keep your kids in the mood to eat. Design your dishes around bright-hued fruits and vegetables, rainbow colored pasta, red or black rice, a variety of beans and rich-colored sweet or savory sauces. The more naturally colorful ingredients in your meals, the more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your family will enjoy. Not every single dish needs to boast a rainbow of colors -- you can also partner monochromatic recipes into tasty multi-colored meals.
More healthy eating ideas for kids
5 Fun ways to get kids to eat healthy foods
Healthy recipes for toddlers: Vegetables in disguise
Top 10 cooking secrets for simple family meals