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For Immediate Release: March 9, 2012
Contact: Mya Nelson, m.nelson@aicr.org, 202-328-7744 x3047

Help Kids’ Plates “Go Green” on St. Pat’s Day and Beyond

4 Tips from Cancer Experts

WASHINGTON, DC — Forget the artificially colored green pancakes and potatoes. This year for St. Patrick's Day help your children eat their greens naturally with a few creative ideas and recipes from experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Everyone loves to go green on March 17 and that includes kids. But beyond green frosting on cupcakes and cabbage, there are plenty of ways to fill their plates with tasty and nutritious naturally green foods on St. Patrick's Day and every other day of the year.

Most American children get fewer colorful veggies and fruits than they need, which means they may miss out on nutrients like vitamins A and C, folate and potassium according to Alice Bender, MS, RD, AICR's Registered Dietitian.

"Green veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and dark lettuce pack a lot of health-promoting phytochemicals (plant substances) and fiber – but not a lot of calories," says Bender. "So, by including these and other veggies in kids' diets you can help them get on a path to stay a healthy weight for life – which helps lower risk for many cancers as they grow older."

Make It Easy Being Green

  1. Include the Wee Lads and Lasses. Getting kids involved in meal and snack planning can be fun and may make them more willing to try new foods. Go together and select both familiar and new green vegetables and fruits at the grocery store. Preparation can be a family affair too.
  2. Go Green Early. For breakfast, serve up a luscious omelet made with cooked chopped broccoli or basil leaves. Add a green fruit salad on the side – sliced kiwi, chopped green apple with peel and green grapes.
  3. Beyond Green: Serve a Rainbow Snack. Roast or grill red, yellow and green peppers and some purple eggplant slices. Serve with a lower calorie version of guacamole dip: mix avocado with pureed green peas, some chopped onion, cilantro, lime juice and cayenne pepper.
  4. Green Meatballs Can Top Off the Day. Meatballs are a favorite for many children. Everyone can get in on dinner preparation by shaping the meatballs, chopping vegetables for a green salad and slicing potatoes for oven roasting.

Green Meatballs with Spicy Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 (28-oz.) can no salt added crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-oz.) can no salt added whole plum tomatoes in tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 lb. 93-95 percent lean ground beef
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch of parsley, optional

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until onions are translucent, 3 minutes, stirring so garlic does not burn. Add crushed tomatoes. To add whole tomatoes, hold one at a time over pot and squeeze it in your fist, crushing tomato through your fingers, then add sauce remaining in can. Add oregano and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While sauce simmers, in mixing bowl, combine meat, spinach, breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, egg and pepper, mixing until well combined. Divide mixture into 8 parts and form each loosely into a meatball. (Divide mixture into 16 parts for smaller meatballs, if desired.)

Gently drop uncooked meatballs into sauce, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 40 minutes. If not serving immediately, cool meatballs and sauce together in big bowl until room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, in large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Serve meatballs in a bowl with just Spicy Red Sauce, over spaghetti or polenta, or halved to make meatball sandwiches spooned generously with sauce.

For St. Patrick's day, garnish with plenty of parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 380 calories, 13 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrate, 36 g protein,
9 g dietary fiber, 480 mg sodium.

For more recipes – and to learn more about cancer-fighting foods of all colors – visit Foods That Fight Cancer.



The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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