Vegetable packed pizza


As a parent, I am always looking for new and efficient ways make my kids eat more veggies because eating greens has many health benefits. Vegetables are the powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds which boost their immune system and help them to fight off the cold, flu, and other infections. Most vegetables are low in calories and fat but high in dietary fiber. The high fiber helps children stay full longer and be able to concentrate more in the school. It also aids in  having a healthy digestive system.

So how much of veggies your child should be eating? Go with More Matters! Eating fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors will provide a broad range of nutrients that they need. You also go with the MyPlate icon from the USDA recommendation to fill HALF your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal!

Getting kids to eat more veggies doesn’t have to be a fight.  Here are some creative ways to introduce and serve them.

Get them involved – Children are more invested in a meal if they help with its preparation. Take your kids with you for grocery shopping and allow them to pick a new vegetable to try.  At home, involve them in the meal preparation.  Letting them clean carrots, snap beans, mix the dressing and set the table gives them a sense of pride and makes them more enthusiastic and cooperative at meal time.

Make Vegetable look attractive- Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately. You can add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves.  Try decorating the plates or serving dishes with vegetable slice

Dip it– If your kids don’t eat vegetables, experiment with dips.  Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing. Try a low-fat salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.

Enforce the “one bite rule”-  Research shows the “one bite rule” where the child has to try at least one mouthful of a disliked food when it is served work wonders with picky eaters. You have to make sure to expose a different kind of vegetables for at least 8-10 times before they begin to rate it more favorably.

Don’t force them to finish- Never fight and punish your child for not eating her veggies as this will create a negative meal experience and the child will learn to associate food with the bad feeling. You don’t have to be a short-order cook but try not to start a fight.

Be a good role model- Children have a natural tendency to imitate, so be a good example of healthy eating! Eating with them as a family, and if you are eating a vegetable at dinner, your child is likely to take notice and do the same, well maybe not immediately!

Here is recipe for you to try with your kids:

Technicolor Vegetable Pizzas

Preparation time: 20 minutes 

Rose colored glasses won’t be needed to appreciate the variety of colors and blend of tastes offered by these easy to make individual pizzas.

  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables with mushrooms
  • 5 slices Italian bread (1 oz. slices; each ~ 1” thick and 5” long)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup prepared pizza sauce
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomato
  • ½ cup very finely diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 ½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:  Pre-heat oven to 350º F and place oven rack in middle-high position. Microwave frozen vegetables, then pat dry.  Brush all bread slices lightly with oil and spread each with ~ 1½ tablespoons sauce. Combine all vegetables in a medium-sized bowl. Carefully spoon vegetable mixture equally onto bread slices. Sprinkle with oregano and garlic powder and then with cheese. Bake about 5-7 minutes, until bread is brown on the edges and all vegetables are piping hot. Serve immediately.

Serves: 5

1 Cup of Vegetables per Serving

Fruit and/or Veggie Colors: Green, White, Yellow, Orange, Red [What’s This?]

Nutrition Information per Serving: calories: 182, total fat: 5.0g, saturated fat: 1.1g, % calories from fat: 24%, % calories from saturated fat: 5%, protein: 6g, carbohydrates: 29g, cholesterol: 2mg, dietary fiber: 5g, sodium: 339 mg

Each serving provides: An excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C, folate and fiber.





Hot Chocolate weather is upon us, drink up!


Warm drinks are a must have for me and my family in the cold winter months, but all those empty calories can add up quickly! According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans consume 20 teaspoons of added sugars daily. Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and children and 9 teaspoons for men daily.

Hot chocolate can be a great, calcium-rich drink for all ages. This family favorite does not have to contain loads of sugar to taste great, try cutting back on the sugar and add more flavor! Flavor your next cup with vanilla, peppermint or my favorite, chai tea! You can do this by adding in spices or for an easy and flavorful trick, try steeping a tea bag in your hot chocolate. What sounds better than a vanilla chai tea hot chocolate? All the fancy flavors without the extra cost or sugars!

Visit the link below for more tips on how to cut back on added sugars for you and your family.

Healthy Hot Chocolate


  • 1 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons skim or 1% milk
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cinnamon, optional


  1. Place milk in a small pot over medium low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place cocoa powder, sugar, and extra tablespoon of milk in a small bowl. Whisk until a paste/thick mixture forms and powder is absorbed.
  3. Whisk cocoa mixture into milk mixture. Heat till hot but not boiling. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon, if using.

Recipe adapted from:

Cheers!  Megan

Megan is the EFNEP Program Assistant in NC State Extension-Orange County Center

Get Active and Stay Active during the Holidays!

santa on a scaleDuring the holidays it can be difficult to maintain your usual workout schedule. In an effort to reach your physical activity needs try to switch it up!

If you are crunched for time try fitting in time at work during your lunch break! You could go for a brisk walk or even do chair exercises at your desk. You can also save time by incorporating your family into your workouts. Backpacking or skiing together can provide exercise while also allowing quality family time. Also try ice skating or even building a snow man to work your muscles!

If you are not able to make it to the gym try putting together some at home workouts. Body weight exercises that don’t require equipment are great for home workouts. Try crunches, pushups, lunges, or jumping jacks. You can do cardio by running up steps or jogging around your house.

Add some variety in your workouts to stay motivated. If you usually run, try biking or weight lifting. For more motivation try creating a vision board and setting realistic goals.

Although the holidays make it difficult, make exercising and reaching your physical fitness goals a top priority. Shoot for at least three thirty minute workout sessions per week.

The last and most important tip is not to overdo it. Find balance and manage your time wisely so that you can enjoy the holidays with family and friends while also getting physical activity.



Family Meals: More than just eating together


Family meals help provide regular, consistent opportunities to create shared experiences that are meaningful and offer a sense of belonging to all. Research has shown that regular and meaningful family meals offer a large variety of benefits to children and parents.

  • Family meals provide a sense of family unity and identity. Family meals become a vehicle for carrying on valued family traditions, such as having a particularly favorite dish on someone’s birthday or going to a favorite place to eat together on special occasions.
  • Family meals make a positive impact on young children’s language acquisition and literacy development. Family meals furnish a daily opportunity for a parent or sibling to speak to an infant or toddler, and help them learn words, understand language and build conversation.
  • Family meals are associated with improved dietary intake among family members. For example, several large studies have shown that regular family meals are strongly associated with increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthy food choices while also linked with lesser consumption of fried or fatty foods, soft drinks or other less healthy food choices

Learn more about strengthening family bonds and improving your family’s wellness here:


Healthy pizza? Read below …



If you asked my family what their favorite food is, they would say “pizza!” As a mom, I worried about feeding pizza to my children, because what you buy is typically in high in fat. Most restaurants do not offer a whole-grain or whole-wheat curst either. So, how can you feed your family one of their favorites and still have it be healthy?

Let’s start with the crust. Did you ever think about using a whole-wheat English muffin, tortilla, or a rice cake instead of the traditional pizza crust? Whole grains and whole wheat provide fiber, in addition to being very tasty. You can also be adventurous and make a crust from cauliflower, which is also quite delicious.

Do you have to skip the cheese? No. You can use a low-fat version of Mozzarella, Provolone, or even Cheddar, and still get your calcium. Remember, a low-fat cheese still has calories, so don’t overdo it.

Vegetables and fruits make for great toppings for pizzas. How about trying green/red/ yellow peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, corn, kale, black beans, or avocado? If you are using fresh vegetables, you may want to cook the vegetable beforehand to soften it. If using frozen vegetables, you will want to thaw and squeeze out the moisture to avoid a soggy crust. Pineapple, apple, mango, strawberries, blueberries, oranges and peaches are also great additions to a pizza. Ask your family to each select a favorite vegetable and/or fruit to add for a topping to your next homemade pizza.

You can still add meat to your pizza. Just change the kind of meat options you are using and even use less of them. Instead of ground beef, use ground turkey. Replace sausage and bacon with shredded chicken. The pepperoni can stay, but opt for a turkey pepperoni instead. Scrambled eggs are a tasty topping too!

Trying all or some of these tips will help you feed your family a healthier pizza. You might find that making a pizza from scratch costs less money than buying one at a store or restaurant.   Why not have pizza night at your house and get the whole family involved?


Safe food, safe time this holiday season



It’s that time of year again! Family and friends get together to enjoy food outside during picnics and cook outs. These events are a great way to spend quality time while enjoying the outdoors and nature. It’s important to have fun, but keeping your food safe by storing and handling it properly is critical while going on a picnic or cook out.

Foods from a refrigerator need to be kept cold, so storing these products in a cooler filled with ice should be prepared prior to going out in the summer heat. Also, organizing what is in the cooler should be considered so that everything stays cold and safe from growth of bacteria. We want to keep our friends and family safe while eating good food!

In addition, cleaning everyone’s hands is a must before handling food products. Germs can be harmful if ingested and can cause illness. If there is no clean running water available, gather a jug and some soap. Moist antibacterial towels can also be used to clean the hands before eating.

This summer, enjoy each other’s company while soaking up the sun. Now is a great time for a picnic!

For more information about picnic safety, refer to the link:

Have fun this summer!