Fruit and vegetables are core foundations of a healthy balanced diet, which supports growth and energy levels and helps us to reach our potential in life. We all know we should aim for a minimum of 5 a day, and little ones are no different (although their portion sizes are smaller).
The more brightly coloured a diet from a variety of fruit and vegetables, the better. It can take time for children to know and love fruit and veg and ensuring they make a regular appearance within meals and snacks is key to building a life-long love of these foods.
Beans and pulses also count as one of their 5 a day and provide great plant protein. Nuts and seeds are also powerhouses of nutrition, supplying protein, fibre, healthy fats and key vitamins and minerals. There are lots of ways to boost these plant-based foods in your little one’s diet, so here are some ideas to get you started:
Veggie sticks & dips
A great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack that allows children to choose a mix of veg to suit their tastes. Good options for veggie sticks include raw carrots, sweet pepper, cucumber, sugarsnap peas, mangetout, cooked and cooled green beans, lightly cooked asparagus spears or tenderstem broccoli and celery sticks. Nutritious plant-based dips include hummus, salsa, guacamole or nut butter.
Porridge oats are a slow release carbohydrate, helping to keep little ones powered through to lunch. For dairy-free porridge use a nut or oat milk. Try topping with chopped or grated fruit like apple, a handful of berries or a mango puree. Adding chia or linseeds can help to boost the protein and minerals too.
Mix a tin of tomatoes and some tomato puree with softened carrots, onions, courgette and peppers and blend into a sauce. Serve with pasta or use as the sauce in family favourites like Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagne and Bolognese.
Root veg-topped pies
Fish, Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie are firm family favourites. Instead of a simple mash-topped pie, add a mix of root veg like swede, carrot, parsnip and sweet potato for a nutrition boost.
Mix up the mince
Mince is used as a base in many of our meals from Spaghetti Bolognese to Chilli and Lasagne. Add lentils or kidney beans to help make mince go further. You can also use a soy or quorn mince to replace the meat for extra plant power. And add finely chopped veggies like onion, carrot, peppers, mushrooms and peppers for another portion of veg.
Sticks of carrot, parsnip and sweet potato make great chips. Cook them up alongside the potato ones and serve a selection.
Baking with fruit & veg
Kids love baking and it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. Try making favourites from the Little Dish Family Cookbook like Banana Bread, Carrot Cake or Courgette Muffins to add a fruit and veg boost to their bakes.
Hidden veg smoothies
Add small amounts of kale or spinach to strong flavoured fruit smoothies, which have berries, mango or banana in them. Remember to limit to just 150ml a day. This counts as one of your little one’s 5 a day.