MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - July 12, 2010) -  (Family Features) While students are enjoying summer break, parents should make certain their children are not taking a vacation from the structured meal schedule and guaranteed physical activity that many benefit from during the school year. Nutrition and education experts warn that for too many kids, summer is a time when bad eating habits can prevail.

Child nutrition expert and mother Jodie Shield, RD, says, "It can be a struggle to ensure kids are not only having fun, but also getting the nutrients they need, during the summer months, but there are things you can do to make learning about and eating vegetables fun."

To help parents meet their children's recommended two to five cups of fruits and vegetables each day, Shield offers these inventive activities and delicious recipe ideas - all guaranteed to help kids love their veggies.

  • Hit the Farmers' Market for a Scavenger Hunt: Visit your local farmers' market with the whole family. Divide a list of vegetables that includes family favorites and new additions, and let everyone search for their veggies. Once everyone has returned, use the fresh produce to prepare dinner together.
  • Cool (Pizza) Down When It Heats Up: On a hot summer day, let your kids "veg out" with a no-bake pizza. Start with a pre-baked pizza crust and spread on a mixture of equal parts low-fat cream cheese and ranch dressing. Encourage your kids to add their favorite veggies on top - try broccoli florets, bell peppers, portabella mushrooms and diced green onion.
  • Erect Veggie Totem Poles: Your kids will have a blast turning vegetable kebobs into totem poles. Help them thread fresh vegetables - such as baby carrots, zucchini chunks, diced cucumber and cherry tomatoes - through a wooden skewer. Using their imagination and a little ranch dressing as "glue," let them make faces with small pieces of veggies. Use the leftover dressing as a dip.

Vegetable Garden "Dirt" Cups with Ranch Dip
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves 8 - 10

You'll Need:

2-4 cups pumpernickel pretzel or dark corn chip crumbs
2 cups Hidden Valley Original Ranch Light Dressing
  Variety of vegetables for dipping: mini carrots with tops, pea pods, mini sunburst squash, celery sticks, green beans or whatever your child likes to dip
  1. Crush the pumpernickel pretzels or dark corn chips until mixture resembles dirt.
  2. Pour a layer of dirt crumbs into the bottom of a clear container (or for single servings pour into paper cups). 
  3. Pour dressing over crumbs then add a thicker layer of dirt crumbs on top.
  4. Place vegetables into dirt cup or serve them on the side to dip.

Visit LoveYourVeggies.com for more fun recipes, tips and activities to help your kids eat right and beat the heat this summer.