6 Ways to Meet Your Child’s Fruit and Vegetable Requirements
Forget the old adage less is more. When it comes to fruits and vegetables more is less. Eating more fruits and vegetables means more nutrients and fiber and less calories and excess weight gain. It also means numerous health benefits, particularly related to long-term disease.
Getting the recommended servings of fruits and veggies can be a challenge though, especially with picky eaters. The good news is there are a lot of quick and easy ways to turn your kids into lean, mean, fruit and veggie-eating machines!
Use common sense: When it comes to food choices, fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer. They are nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense, which allows you to eat more than almost any other food. Plus, you get the added benefit of fiber, a nutrient that promotes fullness and satisfaction after a meal, not to mention keeps you in the bathroom on a regular basis. One cup of fruits or two cups of veggies contain a similar amount of calories as a 100-calorie snack pack, minus the added fat and sugar!
Look at the “whole” picture: Experts recommend that children get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This can be accomplished by adding a serving of fruit to every meal, and a vegetable to at least two meals or snacks. Talk about convenience! Fruits and veggies are the original convenience foods: pre-packaged, pre-portioned, and portable. Check out the many forms of produce available in supermarkets today and remember, in season produce is the cheapest. Although you’ll get more fiber from whole produce, frozen, canned in natural juices, juiced, dried, and even freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are great options, too.
Taste the rainbow: Choosing a wide variety of color for your child’s diet is the best way to ensure that they get a wide variety of key nutrients. The key word is natural colors, not artificial dyes and food colorings. Fruits and vegetables are the ultimate and natural way to add color. Vary your colors each day and within each meal and see how many you can incorporate in your family’s diet.
Check Your Bad Attitude at the Door: Have a positive attitude about eating vegetables! Food should provide pleasure, not pain and eating should be enjoyable, not drudgery. If you approach eating fruits and vegetables with a positive attitude, your kids will follow suit. Focus on what you get to eat instead of what you think you can’t eat or are missing. A healthy outlook and attitude are just as important as healthy eating behaviors. Studies have shown that focusing on increasing fruits and vegetables is drastically more effective than focusing on eating foods with lower fat and sugar.
Focus on Patience: The name of the game is exposure when it comes to vegetables and fruit (and new foods, for that matter). It may take as many as 10-20 exposures to a new food before your child will find it acceptable. So if you are trying a new veggie, don’t despair. Ask them to try a bite, but don’t force them to eat it if they don’t want to. Just try again another day, or with another food.
Double Duty: Leading by example, or role modeling, is the most effective way to change your child’s behavior. If you want your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, then you need to eat them too. Likewise, you are the decision-maker when it comes to purchasing food, or what I like to call the gatekeeper. If you want your child to eat more fruits and veggies, then make sure you have ample choices on hand.