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5 Sneaky Ways to Boost Your Kids' Nutrition

5 Sneaky Ways to Boost Your Kids' Nutrition

Constantly wondering how to get your kids to eat healthier food? Wonder no more. With a little parental sleight of hand, finicky eaters will enthusiastically devour their 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 healthful eating habits in kids as young as 2 years old. 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.

Smoothies: All kids, toddlers to teens, love smoothies, and lots of parents blend in soy powder, fresh or frozen fruit, or antioxidant-rich cocoa powder to up the nutrients.
Sneaky extra: Add a splash of omega-3-rich flaxseed oil, too. Kids will never taste it, and omega-3s help boost immunity and heart health, fight cancer, and promote brain growth.

Spaghetti sauce: What kid doesn't like spaghetti? If the sauce is based on tomatoes sautéed in olive oil, and the pasta is whole wheat, you've already got a healthy dish going.
Sneaky extra: Boost the sauce's nutrition by adding minced steamed carrots or stirring in pureed baby-food carrots. Your kids will never notice the extra veggies.

Tuna salad: Minimize the mayo, add finely chopped celery, and you're off to a good start.
Sneaky extra: Do what 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.

Chicken nuggets: 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 bread crumbs and bake -- don't fry -- the chicken. Make big batches and freeze in pint-size portions.
Sneaky extra: To slip in more healthy omega-3s, simply mix ground walnuts -- a source of these good fats -- into the bread crumbs.

Pancakes: What kid doesn't do backflips for pancakes? Mix in blueberries to add vitamins and healthy plant nutrients.
Sneaky extra: Stir some yummy, nutty-tasting flaxseed meal (available at any health-food store) into the batter to ramp up the fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Learn how to get picky eaters to eat vegetables.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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