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Being Fruit and Veggie Friendly: Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat 'Em

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September is Fruit and Vegetable month! We need more of ‘em and so do our kids. Yeah yeah, they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, you already know. But did you know that eating lots of fruits and veggies can also help keep weight under control. Plus they're packed with phytonutrients that can fight off chronic diseases. And if that’s not enough fruits and veggies help our kids grow, perform better in school, and stay energetic so they can get out and be kids!

Sold yet? You’re probably saying, “ok, just how do you expect me to do get my kids to eat more?” I hear ya. To start, a good rule of thumb is to build every meal and snack around fruits and vegetables. Try some of these tips and techniques to get you on track:

  • First ask your kids what their favorite fruits and vegetables are and how they like them prepared
  • Then take your kids grocery shopping with you and have them pick out new fresh, canned or frozen fruit and veggies to try out
  • Make mealtime fun-let your kids help you prepare fruits and veggies at home-they can tear up broccoli, wash vegetables, toss salad etc.
  • Kids like to have control. Put out small bowls of raisins, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, crunchy noodles, chopped fruit etc and let them make their own salads
  • Pick a dressing they will like-they tend to go more towards the sweeter ones like honey mustard, rather than a vinaigrette
  • They can make their own wraps or tacos too, loaded with beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumber, avocado, tomatoes and so on
  • Stuff a baked potato with salsa and guacamole
  • Try peanut butter and banana instead of PB&J (Yum!)
  • Serve chopped veggies (like baby carrots, celery stalks, Jicama sticks, asparagus spears, broccoli and cauliflower florets) with salsa, low fat ranch dressing, flavored hummus, peanut butter, or guacamole
  • Dish up boiled edamame in their shell as a snack (soy beans in the pod-they’re such a fun food)
  • Add pureed or finley veggies to soups, sauces and casseroles
  • Start the day with a fresh fruit smoothie by blending ½ banana, ½ cup frozen strawberries, ½ cup 1% milk and ½ cup 100% fruit juice
  • Have your kids make ants on a log for a snack-spread peanut butter onto celery stalks and top with raisins
  • Or make elephant ears-spread peanut butter onto lettuce leaves

We should shoot for at least 1 ½ cups fruit and 2 cups vegetables for our kids. An apple, orange, pear and medium banana all count as a cup. For some of the smaller fruit, about 8 strawberries, 3 small plums and 32 grapes make a cup. Note: ½ cup of dried fruit counts as 1 cup. 100% fruit juice counts too but limit juice to 6-8 ounces a day. Juice is high in calories and is easy to over consume.

As for veggies, a medium potato (of course having them as French fries negates their benefit, and eating the skin is key to get the maximum nutrition), about 12 baby carrots, 2 large celery stalks and 2 cups salad greens are all about 1 cup. And don’t ‘forget beans and peas count as veggies too!

Please share your tips with me and I’ll post them to pass along to the group.

For more tips and recipes for fruits and veggies visit the Produce for Better Health Foundation and the 5 A Day campaign websites.

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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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