Fun and Easy Fruit and Veggie Ideas for Healthy Kids

September 20, 2018

boy eating appleSeptember is Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month. As a co-founder of the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST), NIOST helped develop the developed the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards that recommend a fruit or vegetable at every snack or meal. We’re therefore pleased to share these fun fruit and veggie ideas from NIOST Research Associate Elizabeth Starr, who’s tested them all with her own kids!

Growing up in my household in the 80s (and 70s, who are we kidding), I ate a lot of plain frozen vegetables, green bean casserole, and iceberg lettuce salads.

As a grown-up, I love to cook and have been a vegetarian on and off, so I have a significant repertoire of favorite veggie recipes that are a far cry from those my mom prepared -- salads, slaws, casseroles, soups -- most of which my kids won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. I now realize the merit of those veggies of my childhood: they were easy to prepare, and kids would eat them.

When it comes to my kids, and maybe the children in your program, also, simple is often best when serving fruits and veggies. Really, neither culinary skills nor time are required. No need to gild the lily with fruits (though I recently made this again, which even my 10-year old agreed was phenomenal) -- a bowl of grapes, a ripe peach, apple slices, etc. are all great as is. Having a few tricks up your sleeve, though, can keep things from getting boring without much more effort. Try:

  • Shakey apples! Take those apple slices, put then in a baggie, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, and shake.
  • Apple cookies! Core and slice the apple crosswise into cookie shapes, spread with peanut butter or another nut or seed butter, adorn with a few chocolate chips and shredded coconut or granola if you want.
  • Melon popsicles! Cut a big hunk of melon, stick a fork in it, and call it a popsicle. Bonus points for using an actual popsicle stick instead of a fork.

Veggies are a little harder in my house, but some similarly uncomplicated tricks can help. Did you know you can cut cucumbers both into rounds or spears? Or that you can hand a kid a whole carrot so she/he can eat it like Bugs Bunny (even if he or she doesn’t know who Bugs Bunny is, it’s still fun). My son will only eat veggies raw (“crunchy”), and as a toddler thought the best thing in the world was “broccoli snacks” -- broccoli florets broken up into little bits served in a plastic bowl that he was allowed to have in the living room. You get the idea -- you don’t have to carve vegetables into animals or flowers.

A dip can keep it interesting. Though a mom friend recently rejoiced at the sight of my veggie and dip platter at a dinner party because it was not baby carrots and hummus -- there’s a reason why those baby carrots and hummus are ubiquitous.

And remember there’s no shame in opening that bag of frozen veggies. Word is they can be just as nutritious as fresh ones.


    "NIOST has been an anchor for numerous school age care projects we do, including ASQ (After-School Quality) and Links to Learning. They are a nationally respected organization that Pennsylvania has partnered with for over 20 years."

    – Betsy O. Saatman, TA Specialist/SAC Initiatives, Pennsylvania Key

    "NIOST was a core partner in supporting the development of quality improvement systems across the nine cities that participated in The Wallace Foundation Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative. The NIOST team worked well with other technical assistance partners in the initiative, always willing to pitch in and collaborate with others to make our professional learning community meetings a team effort. I truly hope the Foundation has an opportunity to partner with them in the future."

    – Priscilla M. Little, Initiative Manager, The Wallace Foundation


    "NIOST has been a leader in the out-of-school time field for as long as I can remember, and I have relied on their research, tools, and advice to improve my practice throughout my career. Their staff members are good partners and good listeners, and their influence across the country is palpable."

    – Jane Quinn, Vice President and Director of National Center for Community Schools, Children's Aid Society

    "Georgia Hall, Ellen Gannett, and the NIOST team have been instrumental in driving the healthy afterschool movement. Their dedication to quality practice, informed policy, and collective impact is instrumental in our effort to create healthier communities."

    – Daniel W. Hatcher, Director, Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

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