HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES BY BARBARA B. MINTZ, MS, RD
Your kids will learn far more from what you do than what you say. If they see you shopping, cooking and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, they will do the same.
Did you know that September is Fruit and Vegetable Month? A few years ago, the National 5 A Day program became the national Fruit and Vegetable Program and launched a new public health initiative called Fruits & Veggies–More Matters. The new guidelines recommend two- to six-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables a day, which is up to 13 servings!
However, according to the California Department of Education, nearly half (49 percent) of American children do not eat at least a single serving of fruit or vegetables per day.
Your child probably eats closer to the recommended five to nine-plus servings of fruit and vegetables per day, but many parents find it difficult to get their children to eat more of the nutritious foods they should.
We know that eating fresh produce is essential to good health. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and powerful phytochemicals which help protect the body from disease, boost the immune system and fight harmful bacteria. The wide range of valuable nutrients includes fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. In fact, eating more fruits and vegetables can help just about every health issue.
Fruits and vegetables come in terrific colors and flavors, and they are very powerful foods. Each color also gives you a boost of antioxidants which are like ninjas fighting against the oxidative damage that is a part of the aging process and a contributor to the diseases mentioned above. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red apples, and white onions. Each food is unique in its protective power, so eating a variety of them daily is important. Substituting fruits and vegetables for higher calorie foods can be part of a weight loss strategy as well. They are naturally low in calories, and the fiber they provide helps keep you full.
September is also the time when kids are going back to school and it is the perfect time to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. So, how can you help your child to enjoy more fruits and veggies?
EAT FOODS THAT ARE IN SEASON
Produce that is in season is better tasting, more nutritious and less expensive than the stuff that is shipped in from far away. Take you kids to farmers markets, or even a trip to a local farm will help them appreciate and understand the beauty of these natural whole foods.
ALWAYS KEEP FRESH FRUITS AND VEGGIES ACCESSIBLE
Keep fresh, fruits and vegetables in the house and be sure they are ready to eat on the go. Cut up some melon into cubes and keep them in a covered bowl in the fridge. Slice up some carrots, celery and cucumbers so you can easily slip them into sandwiches or have them ready for dipping. Some great dips to have handy are natural peanut butter, ranch low-fat ranch dressing, Greek yogurt or cream cheese. Add spinach to your pizza and zucchini to your breads. Another idea is to add them to soups and stews. Make veggie tacos or burritos and let your kids help you make these items. This also includes shopping for fruits and vegetables, whether you go to a supermarket or a farmer’s market. The more they are a part of the process, the more they will want to try these and other
BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL AND SET AN EXAMPLE
Your kids will learn far more from what you do than what you say. They are great mimics and watch what parents do all the time. If they see you shopping, cooking and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, they will do the same. If you eat junk food, you can be sure that they will ask to go to these types of establishments more often than not. Think about how confusing it might be to a child if you tell them to eat fruits and vegetables and they see you eating a bag of chips.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
It takes time to teach good habits. The key is to keep offering these foods even though you may get a frown or a resounding “no” from your child. They will eventually try it and even though they may say no at the first try, you might be pleasantly surprised the next time you offer it. Kids are changing daily and so do their palates. Be patient and you will get some very positive results.
KNOW YOUR SERVING SIZES
It is easier than you might think to get your recommended servings daily.
Veggies: 1 cup of raw and ½ cup of cooked.
Fruits: Usually one whole fruit, such an apple or an orange, will count. (A large banana can be 2 servings), 1 cup of melon and 1 cup of berries.
To learn more about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, go to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov •
FIVE FUN & FRESH WAYS TO INCREASE FRUIT & VEGETABLE INTAKE
1. Have a fruit or juice at breakfast daily. This will help you get a head start on improving you intake as well as give you some added nutrition and energy.
2. Add some strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and other brightly colored fruits – fresh frozen or canned – to your waffles, pancakes or toast.
3. Always add carrots and celery and a piece of fruit to your child’s lunch. Pack some raisin in
their backpack. 1/2 cup of a dried fruit will give you a whole serving!
4. Make some healthy smoothies on hot days. These are so much more nutritious and lower in fat than ice cream.
5. Put about 15 grapes (+ one serving) each in plastic baggies and freeze them for a great after school snack.
HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES