By Meri Raffetto, Wendy Jo Peterson

All children have different tastes. Some can handle a lot of spice, and others like foods to be bland. Changing to a Mediterranean Diet might be challenging if you may have picky eaters on your hands who shudder at the idea of lentils or feta. You might have adventurous eaters who think lima beans are the best food ever.

Another way to encourage kids to try new things is to involve them in the planning, shopping, and cooking processes. The tykes will be more excited to try new things if those things are their creations.

Try many different recipes with your kids because you never know what they may like. Here are a couple of recipes your kids will enjoy to get you started:

Mini Spanakopita

Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 24 servings

Three 10-ounce packages fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

6 ounces (about 1 cup) feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon butter, melted

8 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1-1/2 cups breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare the filling, microwave the spinach in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated. Using a colander, strain and wring out the spinach until it’s barely moist; transfer to a large bowl and mix with the feta cheese.
  2. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion for 3 minutes. Add the onion, dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and eggs to the spinach mixture and stir well.
  3. Combine the remaining olive oil and melted butter in a small bowl. Lightly brush the phyllo sheet with the olive oil and butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the bread crumbs. Cut 1 phyllo sheet at a time lengthwise into three 4-inch strips.
  4. Spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the spinach mixture onto one end of each strip; fold as Figure 8-1 shows.
  5. Place the triangles, seam sides down, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Using tongs, gently place the spanakopitas onto a serving plate. Serve warm.

PER SERVING: Calories 78 (From Fat 39); Fat 4g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 8mg; Sodium 190mg; Carbohydrate 7g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 3g.

As you work, cover the unused sheets of phyllo dough with a lightly moistened (not wet) towel to keep them from drying out.

Tomato Basil Soup

Preparation Time: 18 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

4 pounds tomatoes, halved across the hemisphere

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, sliced

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup basil, sliced thinly

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat the grill or grill pan over high heat to 400 degrees F. Remove the tomato seeds; brush the tomato halves with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Grill skin side down for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly blackened.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes. Pour in the stock, red pepper flakes, and roasted tomatoes.
  3. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Blend the soup in a blender or in the pot with a stick blender until it’s the desired texture.
  4. In the pot, season the blended soup with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the soup into eight bowls, top each serving with 1 tablespoon of sliced basil and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, and serve.

PER SERVING: Calories 233 (From Fat 126); Fat 14g (Saturated 4g); Cholesterol 12mg; Sodium 967mg; Carbohydrate 22g (Dietary Fiber 6g); Protein 7g.

If you’re using a traditional blender, blend the soup in small (1-to-2-cup) batches to avoid splattering soup everywhere.

Oven-Fried Fish Sandwich with Fresh Spring Mix

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Four 6-ounce fillets flounder or other white fish

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 French bread baguette

2 cups spring mix lettuce

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, paprika, and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg and Greek yogurt; place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
  3. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. Dip the floured fish into the yogurt mixture and then coat it with the breadcrumbs. Place the breaded fish onto a baking sheet.
  4. Bake the fish for 20 minutes or until golden. Immediately upon removing from the oven, top each fillet with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.
  5. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and top it with the cooked fish. In a medium bowl, toss the greens with the lemon juice and olive oil to coat; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Place the greens over the fish, cut the sandwich into 4 servings, and serve.

PER SERVING: Calories 424 (From Fat 82); Fat 9g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 58mg; Sodium 706mg; Carbohydrate 49g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 35g.