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Encourage healthy greens on greenest day

March 7, 2016
Luana Turovskaya , MOV Parent

Whether or not you have Irish roots, the chances are, your child may be part of the 39 percent of the American population that celebrates St. Patrick's Day. They may be interested in wearing their favorite green outfit and reaching for some bright green colored sugar cookies in a class party. Or maybe, they are celebrating with cupcakes smothered in green frosting or eating gold chocolate coins at the end of the rainbow. Either way, your child is likely turning their tongue green and taking in more energy and calories than their body needs.

Leave the Food Coloring at the Store

Green is the color of life and many fruits and vegetables are naturally green. They vary from dark green - kale, broccoli, spinach and green peppers - all the way over to bright green - limes, Granny Smith apples, romaine lettuce, kiwi, asparagus, green beans, grapes, snap peas, avocados, pears, cucumbers, edamame and so much more! St. Patrick's Day presents a perfect opportunity for children to try all kinds of fruits and vegetables just because they are green. You can even blend green herbs like parsley or dill into plain low fat Greek yogurt to make a festive green vegetable dip with a hearty amount of protein and calcium to help build strong muscle and bones. The vitamins and minerals found in these foods will help keep your children at their healthiest, without giving them empty calories.

Sneaky Green Leprechaun

If children are still hungry after sampling green fruits and vegetables, you can really get creative with adding green vegetables to your child's favorite foods. You can use a green whole wheat spinach tortilla to make a green quesadilla with low-fat cheese, spinach and grilled green pepper. Or, you can put an Irish spin on an American classic with the recipe below.

Green Mac and Cheese

2 cups raw whole wheat pasta

2 3/4 cups skim milk

1 cup loosely packed low-fat cheese of your choice (mozzarella, sharp cheddar, etc.)

4 cups raw spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach (nutrients are the same!)

1 small onion optional

1 small jalapeno optional

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Combine pasta and 2 1/2 cups milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently and keeping the milk from boiling. Combine 1/4 cup skim milk and spinach. Add sauteed onion and jalapeno to blender if desired. Add spinach sauce to saucepan overtop the pasta, and add in cheese, pepper and oregano and stir on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Green Means Go!

St. Patrick's Day is a great time for kids to get up and get active. Chances are, despite your efforts, your child may still find a way to get to St. Patrick's Day junk food. Fortunately, this holiday presents an opportunity to creatively get active with kids. The following Relay Race is easy to incorporate into a fun filled and healthy St. Patrick's Day.

St Patrick's Day Relay Race

Cut out shamrocks from green construction paper. Distribute one to each child and have them write an action word on each. This could be "jumping jacks", "crab walk", "skip", "crawl", etc. Divide the children into two teams and have them line up in two lines on one side of the room. On the other side of the room, make two equal stacks of shamrocks. When you are ready to begin the race, have everyone yell "leprechaun" and the first child from each team will run to the stack of shamrocks and read the card. They will have to bring the card and do the action on the card to get back to their teammates. As soon as they return, the next person on their team will pick up a shamrock and do the specified action back to the line.

Source: History of St. Patrick's Day, interactives, St. Patrick's Day by the Numbers , History Channel

Luana Turovskaya is a member of Children's Hunger Alliance and a dietetic intern for The Ohio State University.



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