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Chef Cat Cora’s Top 4 Tips To Help Your Kids Love Fruits and Veggies

Written on March 2, 2012 at 9:54 am , by

Cat Cora's dishes often spotlight seasonal veggies. (Photo courtesy of Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Hidden Valley Lunch Break for Schools)

The First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign strikes a chord with mom of four Cat Cora. In fact, Iron Chef Cora was at the White House in the spring of 2010 when Mrs. Obama kicked off the Chefs Move to Schools program. The goal: Improve the quality of food served during lunches at public schools and teach students to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. This week, Cora is spreading the word about the Love Your Veggies Lunch Break for Schools, which raises money to help fund Chefs Move to Schools.

We spoke with the restaurateur, cookbook author and soon-to-be co-host of Bravo’s Around the World in 80 Plates (with Curtis Stone) about how to help your whole family to enjoy produce.

  • Ask for input. Offer options, such as broccoli or edamame as a dinner side, before you start cooking. Once the young ones come to a consensus, cook it up and prepare to watch it disappear! “If you give your kids a choice, they’ll feel empowered and will be more willing to try a new food,” Cora says.
  • Dip it good. “I always serve my kids crudites as an appetizer,” Cora says. Carrot and celery sticks, snap peas and sliced peppers taste great solo or with a dip like light Hidden Valley Ranch, Cora recommends. Or you can toss roasted or steamed veggies with lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil for some Mediterranean flair.
  • Don’t take special requests. Cora believes that raising kids who eat what the adults in the family eat will make them more adventurous eaters. “That’s how I grew up and I think that’s really what made my palate grow,” she says. “Don’t assume your kids won’t like something just because it isn’t a typical ‘kid’ food.”
  • Think outside the box. When asked what fruit or vegetable she’d most like to see as the secret ingredient unveiled at her next Iron Chef battle, Cora quickly responded, “the all-American vegetable: broccoli! I want to make it fun and cool.” While Cora thinks she might whip up candied broccoli or broccoli ice cream, you can add to the novelty of a meal and inspire your kids to eat more greens by preparing them in different ways (grilling, mixing into soups or chopping and tossing into salads).

Now that we covered the vegetables, we asked Cat to share one of her favorite family-friendly fruit recipes. Who’s ready for dessert?

Each serving packs 12 grams of protein! (Photo courtesy of Hidden Valley)

Kiwi Berry Parfait with Greek Yogurt and Toasted Coconut

Serves 4

  • 1 pint low-fat or nonfat plain vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup diced tropical fruit (kiwi)
  • 1/2 cup berries of choice
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  1. In a martini glass (or other festive vessel), spoon a dollop of the yogurt into the base of the glass and top with a sprinkling of graham crackers, a layer of diced fruit, then berries.
  2. Start again with the yogurt, continuing the pattern until the glass is filled.
  3. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the toasted coconut.
  4. Repeat with the remaining three glasses and serve immediately.