Do you eat vegetables and fruit? What about your kids, do they eat fruit and veggies?
Here’s an even more difficult question: how many servings of fruit and vegetables do you and your children eat each day?
Yesterday a client asked me if the blueberries in her blueberry bagel “count” as a fruit serving. Nope. Neither does the strawberry jam you put on your English muffin, or the fruit that’s at the bottom of your yogurt.
A new study from Eastern Michigan University shows that preschoolers whose parents purchased and offered more fruit and vegetables at meals actually ate more of these healthy foods. That’s really not surprising, is it? It takes at least 10 exposures to a food for many children to taste that food, and it can take even longer before they willingly eat a portion of the food. If they never see fruit or vegetables, or never see their parents eat – and enjoy – fruit and vegetables, then they probably won’t eat them, either.
Here’s what we can do:
1. Make sure that you serve fruit with every meal. It can be a fresh apple cut into slices and spread with peanut butter, or fruit cocktail canned in its own juice, or even a fresh fruit salad that you put together yourself. Fruit should be part of the meal – period.
2. Serve at least two different vegetables with lunch and dinner. You might offer baby carrots with a favorite dip, or steamed frozen peas, or sliced up raw tomatoes, or canned green beans. Try to serve two different colors of veggies at a meal to improve the visual interest of the meal plus add more nutrients.
3. Think about how you want to encourage your kids to taste new foods, including fruit and vegetables. You might have a one-bite rule. Many kids are willing to put a food in their mouth, but they are not willing to swallow it, so make sure you talk about an approved method for removing unwanted food from their mouths. Model eating fruit and vegetables to your kids, and better yet, let them know that you enjoy eating these foods.
4. Encourage your kids to help you choose fruit and vegetables for meals and snacks. They could pick out favorites at the grocery store, choose from two different options in the fridge (would you like pineapple or peaches for lunch today?), or even help you prepare the food. Getting them involved will encourage them to eat these foods.
Not sure how many servings of fruit and vegetables you and your kids should eat each day? Check out the information at http://www.mypyramid.gov and get the specifics for you and your family.