Around 70% of our Canadian children between the ages of 4-8 do not meet the daily recommended intake of 5 servings of vegetables and fruit (http://www.dietitians.ca/Media/News-Releases/2013/Childrens-vegetable-and-fruit-consumption.aspx). There could be many reasons for why our Canadian children are not making the mark with this particular food group. As a parent, I can empathize with picky eating and overall disinterest in the vegetable and fruit food group. We have to remember that our role as parents is to provide the healthiest environment for our children to let them thrive and that includes daily exposure to healthy foods. Here are some strategies that I implement in my house to ensure my daughter is getting in 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day:
- Start your day off right with fruit as part of a healthy breakfast. We strategically place a fruit bowl in the middle of our counter for easy access. My daughter decides on what fruit she would like to eat--it could be half or a whole banana, oranges or even a kiwi. Chopped up fruit is delicious and easy in cold or hot cereal. Sliced banana is always flavorful with toast and nut butter. A breakfast parfait with berries, Greek yogurt and high fiber cereal is rich in anti-oxidants, crunch and taste.
- Take your child grocery shopping and have him or her decide what vegetables and fruit they would like to eat or try. Lunch usually tends to be a point of contention with many parents. You pack a lunch and often, a substantial portion of it comes home. If your child has a say as to what goes in their lunch bag, the likelihood of that food being consumed increases. Mini bell peppers, baby carrots, cucumbers are all a hit in our household. I know some children love hummus or yogurt as a dip to go along with their veggies. Sliced apples with cinnamon or chopped pears mixed in vanilla Greek yogurt are a delicious sweet ending to a lunch meal or part of an afternoon snack.
- As a parent, model regular vegetable and fruit consumption. If you do not eat vegetables and fruit, chances are your kids will not either. Positive peer pressure can be a great tool when it comes to eating that broccoli at supper. Avoid forcing your child to eat their veggies—this will cause a negative association with that food. Instead, make sure vegetables and fruits are present at meal times. When children see you enjoying vegetables and fruit they want to be a part of that! I always ensure two different vegetables at our supper meal; this provides greater exposure to varying vitamins and minerals, breaks up the monotony of consuming simply one vegetable (as we should be aiming to have half a plate of vegetables at our meals), and it allows family preferences to be taken into consideration. For example, we may have some raw, crunchy carrots along with some roasted asparagus—I love the latter whereas my daughter loves the carrots!
- Aim to have fruits and vegetables as healthy snacks. My daughter and I absolutely love fruit and/or vegetable smoothies as an after school or post-activity snack. Smoothies are a great way to increase exposure to a variety of nutrients and they can pack a lot of flavor! Have cut-up vegetables ready to grab from the fridge to go along with cheese or hummus. The more accessible the better.
- Last but not least, as parents we control the foods that come into the house. Children are not responsible for going grocery shopping and purchasing food—we are. I’m often sad when I hear parents throwing up their hands and exclaiming they have no control over what their child is eating—yes, we do. We may not be able to control how much or how little our child is eating, but we can provide a nourishing healthy food environment for them that will hopefully foster a lifetime of healthy eating.
Here is a link to some other helpful tips for healthy eating geared towards children ages 4-11 courtesy of Dietitians of Canada: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Toddlers/Healthy-Eating-for-Children-Aged-4-11.aspx
This afternoon I garnered quite a few “cool” points from my daughter and her classmates for making and sharing this delicious smoothie in her grade two class today. I feel so blessed to be able to share my passion and love for nutrition. Here is the delicious “Green Lizard” Smoothie and recipe:
Green Lizard Smoothie Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR.
Ingredients (Makes 4-6 servings):
- 2 cups of raw spinach
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup of frozen mango
- 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
- *1 ½ to 2 cups of cow’s milk or soy milk
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- Honey (if desired)
Directions: Mix all ingredients well in a blender.
*Add less milk if wanting a thicker smoothie
Now go and enjoy those fruits and vegetables :)
Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR