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Sneaky Nutrition

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 75 percent of Americans do not eat the recommended five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Vegetables are essential for optimal health, providing necessary fiber, calcium, vitamins, and antioxidants. Jo-Ann Heslin, a registered dietitian, explained on MSNBC, that one serving of fruit or vegetables is one-half cup raw, cooked or pureed food. A large apple could actually be two or two and one-half servings of fruit. The recommended daily amount could easily be met with a little creative cooking.

A great way to thicken vegetable soup is by adding one cup of tiny sweet peas pureed. For those who love salads, adding fresh shelled sweet peas, uncooked, will add a little crunch and hardly be noticed under the salad dressing. Chunks of fresh eggplant or zucchini can be added to soups and stews without changing the taste. These vegetables take on the flavor of the soup and a picky eater will believe that eggplant tastes as good as the vegetables he likes.

Another way to serve vegetables to picky eaters is to serve them as pickles. A person who would never eat okra might enjoy pickled okra. Also, vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peppers, and green beans make great pickles. They can be served as sides for a meal or added to garden salads. Joy Feldman of Nutritional Balancing sneaks vegetables into homemade chili. People tend to forget that onions and garlic are vegetables. MS. Feldman also suggests making veggie pizzas for picky children and teens. Mushrooms can be added to both chili and veggie pizzas.

Meatloaf can be much more than just ground beef or pork. Cooked chunks of eggplant or black zucchini can be added to the mix. Add cooked tomatoes to the top of meatloaf the last ten minutes of cooking. Potato or pasta salads are great ways to sneak in a few servings of vegetables. Chop a half-cup each of celery, dill pickles, green or black olives, and chives. Add fresh cilantro and sprigs of parsley when the salad is served.

Many desserts can be made with fresh vegetables. Grated carrots in carrot cake, grated zucchini in banana nut bread, or butternut squash pies are nutritious desserts for any day or for holiday parties. Pumpkin and sweet potato pies are nutritious without adding anything extra.

Using one-fourth cup of flax seeds in your pancake batter adds vital nutrition and gives the batter a slight nutty taste. Make breakfast muffins with mashed ripe bananas or real strawberries and blueberries. Instead of syrup on pancakes, puree fresh or frozen strawberries with a little honey.

Many fruit juices now add vegetables such as carrots without changing the taste of the juice. In fact, many children prefer the taste of the new fruit juices because they are less acidic and not overly sweet. Chopped fruit of any assortment topped with real whipped cream, not cool whip, will entice most children to eat their daily fruit servings. Frozen bananas dipped in a chocolate fondue and rolled in chopped peanuts, coconut, or crushed pineapple make a great snack for kids having a sleep-over. Children are more likely to eat foods that they helped to prepare. Covering juicy apples with melted caramels is as fun to make as they are to eat.

Fruit smoothies make wonderful on-the-go breakfasts or snacks. Use fresh or frozen fruits mixed with low-fat yogurt. A mixed berry smoothie is loaded with antioxidants. Add chunks of fruit to jello or puree the fruit and add to jello after it chills for thirty minutes. Substitute applesauce for the oils used to bake cakes or breads.

For a party food, pour pepper jelly over cream cheese and serve with vegetable crackers. Spinach dip tastes much better when fresh chopped baby spinach leaves are used instead of frozen spinach. Sometimes, it just helps to serve a fruit or vegetable in a different way than usual. People often discover they like a particular fruit or vegetable prepared differently.