If you don’t have to play the game of “hide the veggies,” you are lucky. However, many of us struggle with kids who just DO NOT want to even try. I remember being a kid. I remember how much I detested not only the taste, but the texture of squash. I felt like I was eating slime, especially if my mom boiled them. Eww… thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies. It’s still not my favorite veggie in the world, but I’ll eat it. Particularly if it’s well hidden or prepared in a delectable manner.
So, it’s not surprising to me that my kids don’t cheer when we have brussel sprouts for dinner. In fact, there are few veggies they will just eat without complaint. So, I’m not gonna lie. I hide them because I know the importance of ensuring my children are eating a well balanced diet.
The food “pyramid” has evolved to a “plate” which now suggests five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day. That is a big challenge for many people. It’s also a challenge for schools and day cares. According to a study at Ohio State, a mere 22% of toddlers and preschoolers, and only 16% of elementary school age children are meeting this recommended amount. Fruits and vegetables provide necessary nutrients and boost the immune system. Furthermore, not including fruits and vegetables in the diet may result in significant health issues.
Some of those health consequences include digestive issues and constipation from not consuming enough fiber; vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can cause skeletal, nerve and cardiovascular health issues; increase in risk for disease.
Fiber from fruits and vegetables slows the absorption of nutrients as it passes through the gut. This helps regulate blood levels and reduces risks of high cholesterol and diabetes. Phytochemicals found in colorful fruits and vegetables also play a role in preventing or slowing tumor growth and reduce inflammation. There is no dietary supplement that can mimic the potential nutrient interactions and benefits found in fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables have also been shown to help reduce obesity in children and aid in the proper functioning of the digestive system.
Sometimes some extra innovation is necessary. And I love it when schools and child care providers think outside the box, since not all parents are able to stay home and monitor all meals the children consume. As an example, last year an elementary school in Baltimore, recognizing the importance of a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, turned a classroom into a “smoothie bar.” Here they introduce their students to many fruits and vegetables in the delicious form of a creamy smoothie. The first tasters got to pick from ingredients such as spinach, carrots and cucumbers, along with strawberries, pineapples, bananas and chia seeds, blended with almond milk or coconut water. Not all the students were thrilled with the combinations, but the teachers are committed to trying variations that are more appealing.
This innovative tactic sets a great example for schools, child care providers, and parents around the country.
Need some tips for getting your children to eat more fruits and vegetables? Try doing these things:
- Always offer fruits and or vegetables as a snack prior to other options.
- Continue to put a variety of fruits and vegetables on their plate at dinner each night. Implement a “one bite” policy. It can take many times of trying something before a child likes it, but they’ll never know if they don’t try.
- Grow a garden. Have the children help. They will probably want to try to eat the food they’ve grown.
- Set the example by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables yourself.
- Buy a variety of colorful fruits and veggies and make it an adventure to try new things.
- Hide the fruits and veggies in other foods. (For example, roast and puree into soups or sauces.)
- Involve the children in the preparation process.
- Make delicious smoothies full of fresh or frozen fruits and spinach.
- Transform snack time with a “Snack Platter” that includes colorful fresh fruits and veggies
Get those fruits and veggies on the plate! Your child’s health depends on it.
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