Getting Green for St. Patrick’s Day

You may know that March is National Nutrition Month, but March also brings St. Patrick’s Day.  While making sure to “Eat right, Your way, Every day” (the National Nutrition Month theme for 2013), don’t forget to add in some green!

As adults, we know many green foods provide exceptional nutrition, but kids don’t always see it the same way.  Green veggies may taste bitter or just not have an appealing taste like some of the sweeter tasking veggies.   But this doesn’t give you the green light to not give up on getting your kids to eat their greens.

St. Patrick’s Day gives us a good chance to bring in some green in a fun way.  Gone are the days of using green food color to give your kids green foods.  Instead, use more nutritious options, like broccoli and spinach.  Making green foods is fun and can get a good laugh from your kids.  Plus, it means you can get more green foods in your diet too.

Here are some suggestions for this year, and in fact, these can work all year round to keep your kid’s interested in what’s on the dinner table:

  1. Broccoli mac and cheese- make this traditionally orange dish green by adding pureed broccoli or very finely chopped pieces to your cheese sauce.  Of course you don’t want to over do it with the portion size, but it can make addition to your meal.
  2. Green smoothie- Adding spinach to smoothies has been gaining in popularity.  Surprise your kids with this brightly colored treat.  Add spinach in with fruits for a nutritious on the go breakfast or snack.  For kids, depending on age, a serving ranges from 2-4 ounces.
  3. Broccoli soup- Use low sodium (veggie or chicken) broth with broccoli and blend until smooth to make a tasty green soup that can be enjoyed on its own or as a base for a hearty veggie soup.
  4. Dress your pasta up in green- There are many ways to add in green color to your favorite classic Italian dishes.  First, add broccoli to your tomato sauce.  You may not be able to get your kids to eat big pieces, but you can always puree some broccoli and add to the sauce.  If that isn’t quite your speed, try making spinach filled ravioli.  It’s easy to make your own raviolis using wonton wrappers.  Add some drained, frozen spinach (or fresh if you prefer) to the ricotta cheese filling and watch it turn green.   Your kids will be in for a fun surprise when they take their first bite.  Or, try layering spinach inside a lasagna.  Any way you do it, you are boosting the nutrition and the fun factor.
  5. Green eggs- Here is an updated take on a classic fun dish for kids.  Adding finely chopped broccoli into your scrambled eggs will definitely pump up the green.  Spinach works great too.  And if you are really brave, try using both!
  6. Spinach cupcakes/cookies- Sending green colored baked goods to school with your kids?  Skip the food coloring and use spinach instead.  Fresh works, but if you prefer canned or frozen you can try that out too.  Puree it with your wet ingredients to give it a green hue and you’re good

With these fun ways to go green this St. Patrick’s Day, you may just be amazed at how well your kids do eating their green veggies.  These are just a few of the countless places you can use some pureed or chopped broccoli and spinach to give your food a new color.  Experimenting is part of the fun.  There’s nothing wrong with a little green to brighten your day!

By Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD

Photo credit: via Posts for Syndication at

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