The obesity rate among South African children is increasing at an alarming rate, largely due to unhealthy eating habits. 

It’s recommended that children (and adults) eat at least five portions of different vegetables and/or fruits a day. But, any parent can attest, this is sometimes a difficult task to achieve.

In light of National Obesity Week, Leanne Kiezer, a registered dietitian at Pick n Pay, has provided seven creative ways for parents to sneak extra veggies and fruits into their child’s meals and snacks:

  1. Add veggies to their favourite meal: Mix peas in mac and cheese, add shredded carrots to the spaghetti bolognaise sauce or stir colourful beetroot and zucchini noodles into regular spaghetti pasta. You could also make a deluxe pizza with a whole-wheat pita bread base and top it with vegetable toppings. 
  2. Make it interesting: Blitz or purée vegetables and add them to rice and mashed potato for extra colour on their plates. 
  3. “Fortify” all your saucy meals, such as soups, stews and casseroles, with extra vegetables or canned beans. 
  4. Offer raw finger foods: Children often prefer uncooked vegetables. They also love to dip them so choose a healthier dip options like tzatziki, hummus, salsa or even peanut butter.
  5. Use bright colours: To keep veggies appealing, steam or microwave them in a small amount of water, or stir-fry them in a little oil.  The main goal is to keep the cooking time to a minimum to ensure you keep the vegetable colours bright and the nutrients intact. 
  6. Start a veggie club: Try to taste vegetables from A to Z, ticking off letters of the alphabet as you go.  As you shop, ask your children to identify vegetables corresponding with each of the respective letters, allowing the veggie journey to become a family adventure!
  7. Make it a fun: Find a children’s book which features vegetables as characters, then as you read the story together, also taste the vegetables.