March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Drinking milk and eating yogurt can be excellent food sources of calcium in your diet. However, it can be a challenge to get kids to meet their daily calcium needs.
Dairy plays a big part in many people's daily diets, being one of the five essential food groups that are necessary for a healthy diet. According to the USDA's MyPlate, children should be getting 2 cups at ages 2 to 3 years old, 2½ cups between years 4 to 8, and 3 cups between 9 and 18 as well as into adulthood. To help meet the daily requirements, yogurt can be a healthy, fun and versatile food to add to your children’s meals and snacks.
Kids may be skeptical of yogurt, especially if they have never had it before. The taste and texture may be unusual — so how do you get kids to not only eat yogurt, but enjoy it and have fun with it? It’s all about being creative and making it an enjoyable experience for them. Think of yogurt as your blank canvas, and you are the artist that will create something amazing from it.
Stock Your Refrigerator
First, always try to choose low-fat and fat-free versions of yogurt, either plain or flavored. One cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt provides 30 to 45 percent of the daily intake for calcium, so you can get a lot of nutritional bang for our buck. If you are using frozen yogurt, 1 cup provides about 10 percent of the intake for calcium. Also, while all yogurt has some natural sugar, take care to choose yogurts that do not have high amounts of added sugar. Look for ones with less than 15 grams per serving. You can create the sweetness kids enjoy using other methods.
The Smoothie Project
A popular method for incorporating yogurt into the day is with smoothies. The best part about these blended drinks is you can let kids be their own smoothie creators! Provide them with different fruits and toppings so they can create their own masterpieces! To make a smoothie, start with fresh or frozen fruit, low-fat or fat-free yogurt (flavored or unflavored), ice and a dairy-based liquid like fat-fat milk. Depending on your family's tastes, you can also offer nut butters, vegetables, seeds or other flavorings. Then, mix it all together using a blender.
The customizable appeal of a smoothie station applies to parfaits too! Parfaits are made by layering fruit, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, and a grain topping such as whole grain cereal or granola in individual serving cups.
Kids love to name their creations, so have them create their healthy smoothie or parfait, write down the ingredients, and give it a name! This adds to the ownership of their yogurt dish, and will be more apt to try it again in the future.
To keep things simple and save time, give kids cool and icy treats for a quick on-the-go snack. With ice pop molds, any yogurt can be used as a base. Use flavored yogurt straight from the cup for a simple ice pop, use Greek yogurt for extra protein, or use leftover smoothie.
Switch It Up
Instead of chips or cookies, fruit dips are a great snack to increase fruit consumption. Mix 4 cups of yogurt with 1 cup cream cheese or nut butter. Add honey or granola and berries and serve with sliced apples.
At dinner, substitute half the sour cream in recipes or toppings with non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Your kids won’t be able to taste the difference.
Whichever way you choose, be sure to create fun experiences for kids to be a part of meeting their daily dairy needs while learning about the food they eat and building strong bones and teeth for the future.