Eat Your Fruits & Veggies! Top Tips for Kids
Are your kids getting their recommended daily cups of fruits and vegetables? If the answer is no, they are not alone. Obesity numbers tell the story of what’s on our kids’ plates more than any other statistic. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three kids in the U.S. is overweight or obese and in Canada the figure is 26%.
Children’s weight is the number one health concern among parents, and it’s no wonder. Obesity is responsible for an array of health problems including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, and a shorter life span than even their parents.
Healthy fruits and vegetables continue to take a back seat to sugary, fatty foods, and the battle to nudge kids toward more nutritious fare is in full swing. Recently, media reports show that adding a light mist of sugar makes vegetables more palatable to kids until they develop a taste for veggies. While a spritz of sweet may bridge the gap for kids whose veggies end up being pushed around the plate, there must be another way to help kids get their daily recommended cups.
In fact, there’s plenty of advice when it comes to increasing kids’ fruit and vegetable intake. But the best piece of advice for parents is to keep trying. It takes time for children to develop a taste for new foods, and a little culinary manipulation can be a good thing.
Here are 5 of our favorite ways to extend our efforts to give kids the nutrition they need and tip the scale in the right direction.
Help Kids Get Their Cups! Our Top 5 Tips
Tip #1: Exploit Fruit.
For kids over the age of three, USDA dietary guidelines recommend 11/2 cups of fruit per day and 2 cups of veggies. So if your kids are eating fruit, that’s nearly half the battle. Luckily, nature has provided fruit with their own appeal: sweet taste, bright color, easily edible packages – sometimes just taking advantage of fruit’s built-in charm is all that’s necessary.
For a great snack idea that ups the cups, go blue. Wild blueberries are our choice for a food kids always love. Wild blues are a perfect choice for every day munching because they are nutrient-rich food that adds important dietary nutrients without the “empty” calories that are important for kids to defy the obesity statistics. Eating them straight from the freezer is a popular snack for kids (parents, too), and while they are good by the bowlful, they also make duller foods better, thanks to their fun color. Add blues to nearly everything to get an antioxidant punch (and an easy half cup!), including cereal, yogurt, salads, and even proteins for a sweet splash that appeals to young tastes.
Once you have your blues, keep tiny Tupperware® on hand so fruit salads can be used as an on-the-go snack to replace processed foods. You can also skewer fruit pieces for a fun, colorful way to snack, make a fruit pizza, or blend fruit together for much-loved Yogurt Fruit Pops. Or make fun recipes from fruit that mock their boxed counterparts, like these Blueberry Pop Tarts courtesy of Mogwai Soup, and consider the war against poor eating habits on.
Tip #2: Make Veggies Yummy.
Think your kids won’t eat vegetables? Put a kid-friendly twist on a dish and stand corrected. To appeal to younger palates, get creative by taking advantage of the ready-made sweetness of carrots by making Maple Glazed Carrots, or cook up some Zucchini Chips for an irresistible crunch kids love. Dips are also great for youngsters: slice up peppers, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower and pair them with a little dressing (one that’s not loaded with sugar and fat) and those veggies will disappear. Try these kid-approved dish ideas from My Recipes (including Maple Glazed Carrots and Zucchini Chips) to spark some ideas to take veggies from ho hum to yum.
Tip #3: Eat Just One Meal Together.
Finding it difficult to sit down to dinner every night? Take heart. The latest news about family meals is surprising, but for the time-challenged, it’s all positive. Eating a meal together just once a week will boost fruit and veggie intake, according to new research. The study, published in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, shows that kids who eat together with their family consume more portions of produce than those whose families don’t share a meal. Whether it’s Sunday brunch or a single weekday dinner, that one visit to the family table could work magic in the quest for daily cups – among other benefits.
Tip #4: Be a Food Marketer.
The smarty-pants that changed the name of the Indian beetle to the “ladybug” must have known something about marketing. A simple name change, it seems, can turn yucky into yummy, and that’s a lesson in marketing that works as well in the kitchen as it does in the boardroom.
Consider the story of a mother that started calling Brussels sprouts “hero buttons” and changed the way her kids looked at this less-than-popular veggie. Could it be that simple? Sure. When spinach smoothies become green monsters and dinner vegetables become appetizer “snack plates” you’ll start counting up daily cups. In fact, researchers involved in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health study also found a link between fruit and vegetable intake among the kids and how the produce was presented on the plate. Simply cutting up fruits and veggies led to kids eating more. Presentation is everything, even when it comes to nutrition!
Tip #5: Get Kids Involved.
Of all the inventive, resourceful techniques to get kids to embrace healthy food, our #5 is a guaranteed winner. Parents and experts agree that when kids are part of the process of making meals, they are more likely to understand the benefits of whole, nutritious food, including fruits and vegetables. So let kids help with the shopping – have them choose a new favorite fruit or vegetable from the produce section, for example. And, involve them with meal preparation as well by enlisting them to wash, measure, toss, or add spices. Getting kids involved provides healthy eating lessons they’ll take with them forever. Try these 10 ways to get kids involved from Fruits and Veggies More Matters.
Get Kids in the Game!
Noticing more activity in your kitchen? It could be because school vacation is in full swing for kids around the country. It’s a perfect time for getting kids involved in games that teach them about fruit and veggie nutrition. Fruit and Veggies More Matters has “Food Champs” for just this reason!