Healthy Children - July 2012

 

Getting Your Child to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

According to the dietary guidelines, children as young as 2 years old and teens are required, on average, to consume 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This may sound like a lot, but really it's not. There are many ways you can include fruit and vegetables into your child’s diet – a banana and strawberry smoothie for breakfast, lettuce on deli sandwiches for lunch or apple slices with peanut butter for a snack. Children tend to be extremely active during the summer and it’s important that they eat foods that will provide them the necessary nutrients to keep going. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamins and antioxidants, and have enormous amounts of each. Not to mention that they are delicious whether eaten alone or with other food to create meals. However you choose to include fruits and vegetables in their diet, know that you are instilling healthy eating habits at an early age that will remain with them as adults. NBCDI has listed several different ways that you can introduce new fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet or get them to eat more. Some of these suggestions have been adapted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fabulous Fruits, Versatile Vegetables.

  • Set a good example by eating fruits and vegetables yourself. You are a role model for your kids in so many ways. Eating is no exception. When your kids see you eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables, they will too.
  • The summer is an excellent time to get kids to try different types of fruits and vegetables like blueberries, cantaloupe, asparagus, and summer squash. Visit a local farmers’ market and take your child to help you pick out produce they would like to eat. This will help them feel a part of selecting food for their meals, but also expose them to a blend of fruits and vegetables.
  • Start adding vegetables and fruits to every meal. You can put strawberries and blueberries on whole wheat waffles for breakfast, adding mushrooms and sliced tomatoes to pizza or put zucchini and broccoli in pastas like spaghetti.
  • It is often not an easy task to get children to eat fruits and vegetables. Never force your child to eat them, but offer these foods in a variety of ways at each meal. Have a variety of salad dressings or toppings to spice up their salad.
  • Children love helping out in the kitchen with meals and are often more willing to eat foods they help choose and prepare. Depending on their ages, kids can help shop for, clean, and prepare fruits and vegetables.
  • Children can be very picky and don’t want their food to touch or mix. Try not to combine their vegetables or fruit with other food they may not want to eat. If they want to mix peas and corn, let them do it themselves.
  • If fruits and vegetables are visible and out in the open, children are more apt to see them and want to try them. If they walk by the bowls of strawberries or apples, they are bound to reach for them. Keep cut up fruit like honeydew melon and apple slices in the refrigerator, as well as cut up red pepper sticks and sliced carrots for easy access.

 

Here are some nutritional tidbits to keep in mind about fruits and vegetables:

  • Red and Deep Pink fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, anthocyanins, and lycopens. Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds. Examples include: apples, blood oranges, cranberries, strawberries, pomegranates, red peppers, tomatoes, and red cabbage.
  • Green fruit and vegetables are rich in Carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene) including lutein and zexanthin. Examples include: avocados, green apples, green grapes, asparagus, mustard greens, and broccoli.
  • Yellow and orange fruit and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A. This vitamin is good for your skin and helps fight off infections. Examples include: apricots, cantaloupes, mangoes, butternut squash, carrots, and summer squash.
  • Cooked dried bean and peas are good sources of dietary fiber and protein, and are low in fat and cholesterol-free. They also provide you with magnesium, iron, zinc, and folate.
  • Strawberries are excellent sources of fiber and have more vitamins than an orange. Strawberries also can clean out harmful toxin in the blood, and remove tarter from teeth, plus strengthen the gums.

 

These are a few examples of serving sizes for fruits and vegetables:

Fruits
½ cup fruit
1 medium piece of fruit
½ grapefruit
¼ small cantaloupe
½ cup berries
A dozen grapes
¾ cup of fruit juice (100% juice)
Vegetables
½ cup chopped vegetables
1 cup raw leafy vegetables (a small salad)
6-8 carrot sticks (3” long)
½ cup cooked or canned dry beans or peas
¾ cup vegetable juice

It doesn’t matter what types of fruits and vegetables you include in your child’s daily diet, as long as you do. The most important thing is that you set the example by eating them and encourage your child to do the same. There is such a large selection of colorful fruits and vegetables to pick from that you are sure to find several types that your child will love.