Of the many challenges parents face daily, encouraging healthy eating habits for their children can be one of the most vexing. While the consumption of nutritious foods like vegetables is good for kids while they’re young, it can also serve an important role in encouraging lifelong healthy habits.
One strategy for achieving that goal is to pair familiar foods with vegetables and prepare them in interesting ways. This tactic – pairing foods kids already enjoy with the foods you want them to start eating willingly – is called “associative conditioning,” and can help encourage children to try the new food, according to research conducted by Elizabeth Capaldi-Phillips and Devina Wadhera and published in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.”
For example, prepared beef products like hot dogs, deli roast beef, salami and summer sausage provide sources of nutrients like protein, zinc and vitamin B12. In addition to the direct benefits, these meats can also be used in recipes like Green Bean Twists and Salami-Babs to help encourage the consumption of vegetables.
Find more family-friendly recipes and tips to encourage nutritious eating habits from the North American Meat Institute, a contractor of The Beef Checkoff, at meatpoultrynutrition.org.
Recipe courtesy of The Beef Checkoff
Yield: 8 kebabs
6 oz. beef salami or summer sausage, cut into ¾-inch chunks
8 bamboo skewers (8 inches long)
4 oz. cheese (cheddar or swiss), cut into ½-inch chunks
16 small broccoli florets
4 baby carrots, cut in half crosswise
Thread pieces of meat onto skewers, alternating with cheese, broccoli and carrots. Arrange on plate and serve.
Six strategies to encourage nutritious snacking
With an abundance of prepared-in-advance snacks available that likely come along with unnecessary salts and sugars, it can be difficult to encourage kids to eat snacks with healthier ingredients.
Quick recipes that include beef and veggies may not be the first snack idea that comes to mind for kids (or parents), but it’s not impossible to instill better decision-making in the kitchen. Skip the chips and improve your children’s snack habits with these simple ideas for influencing healthier decisions:
- Enhance the visual appeal of foods by piercing them with decorative toothpicks.
- Offer a variety of colorful foods on a plate.
- Create color contrasts with foods on a plate or in a bowl.
- Arrange foods in an orderly way using a bento box or divided plate that helps keep them separate.
- Involve kids in preparing their meals.
- Pair nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, with well-liked or familiar foods.