Great Greens!

By Danielle Michels

Stronger immune systems, better overall behavior, improved ability to focus on tasks and more quality nights of sleep. These are all things we want our kids to possess, and with the simple addition of a few more servings of greens in your child’s diet these proven nutritional benefits can be theirs.

According to the USDA, children from 2 to 3 years old should be receiving 1⁄2 cup of green vegetables per week, and children 4 to 8 years old should be receiving one cup of green vegetables per week. On a daily scale, half of your child’s daily intake of food should be comprised of fruits and vegetables.

However, coaxing kids to eat their greens is a battle that has stood the test of time. With the increasing amount of processed foods taking over our grocery shelves it’s time for parents to take a stand and fight.

While most of what our children eat is in our control at home, you have to wonder what kind of nutritional value your child receives at school. With classroom pizza parties, birthday cupcakes, vending machines and fundraising snacks (mostly candy), it’s easy for healthy at-home efforts to completely come undone over the day.

Here are a few ways you can add those incredibly nutritious greens to some common lunch box items:

Banish the juice box and go for home squeezed instead.

Make a commonly liked flavor of juice to-go (think strawberry banana or mixed berry), but throw in a little kale for the green element. The dark color and sweet taste of the berries will mask any signs of the kale.

How do you sneak greens in to the most common lunch box item, the sandwich?

Rather than trying to slip in a couple pieces of lettuce and hoping your child doesn’t pick the green stuff out (or have it “accidentally” fall out), try a grilled/pressed sandwich with some romaine lettuce hidden on the inside. With the sandwich being pressed and melted together it won’t be as easy for them to see, or pull out, any leafy greens.

Make green items a fun side dish.

Find an adventurous cookie cutter to create a dinosaur- or lion-shaped sandwich and then use broccoli trees with a “lake” of ranch to paint the rest of the picture. Sometimes getting greens into a young picky eater’s diet is more about sidetracking rather than hiding.

The Good Stuff In Those Greens:

Vitamin K

FIND IT IN: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage BENEFITS: Essential in the creation of proteins for blood clotting, bone strength and bone health


FIND IT IN: Spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens BENEFITS: Affects how we feel on a day-to- day basis by keeping our brains, hearts and nerves in proper functioning order

Vitamin C

FIND IT IN: Green bell peppers, kiwi BENEFITS: Protects the immune system, prevents against heart disease and promotes good vision

Vitamin A

FIND IT IN: Mustard greens, dandelion greens, kale BENEFITS: Important for functioning of vital organs such as the heart, kidney and lungs as well as maintaining a strong immune system


FIND IT IN: Squash, kale, turnip greens, peas BENEFITS: Helps to form red blood cells and is essential for proper brain function and muscle formation