Fruits and vegetables some of the most important, yet overlooked food groups in an everyday diet. Both help a child grow up strong and both reduce the chances of disease and illness significantly. They can also strengthen a child’s teeth as well, and many fruits can be a healthy alternative to cavity-causing sweets.
Sadly, most of us know we are not consistently eating the recommended amount of these food groups – that goes for both children and adults. An Australian study found the deficit to be as high as 56-80% in kids.
The commonality is often due to lack of finances (fresh fruit and vegetables can get pricey, depending on where you shop), and their shelf-life is not as long as most other tempting snack food that can be loaded with sugar, carbohydrates, and preservatives. Both of these aspects can be difficult especially with bigger families.
Another hurdle is the possibility of placing this many servings in front of your children in the first place. Many children tend to be picky eaters, or at least timid about certain foods. Instead of fighting them, television commercials and other marketing ploys are constantly bombarding us to buy the latest fruit juice or packaged veggie snacks, claiming it is the best thing for our children.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these products (and sometimes they can seem a quick and easy solution), the reality is that nothing is ever going to beat out or replace the healthy benefits of good old-fashioned fruits and vegetables that are not manipulated to taste or seem better. Sometimes, persisting for your child to finish his or her last few celery sticks can make all the difference, and can bring you steps closer to implementing more and more nutrients in their diet.
So what are the recommended servings? Variables include not just age, but gender and how much physical activity each child is getting. Younger children actually don’t need nearly as many as growing preteens.
Up until age three, toddlers only need 0.5-1 serving of fruit, and up to just 2.5 servings of veggies. Between ages four to eight, the number goes up to 1.5-4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables, respectively. After age nine, it is 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of veggies.
If your child is an athlete and is more active, it is wisest to be on the higher end of these averages because they are burning more calories. Statistically, because boys tend to have a slightly faster metabolism than girls, they sometimes require more.
Here are some tips for you and your children to consume more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables each day:
- If your child is a juice addict, replace at least one meal a day with water instead. This way, instead of drinking juice they can still get the fruit fix via a handful of blueberries or apple slices.
- Produce prices getting you down? Save your pennies for the weekly or bi-weekly farmer’s market in your town. Sometimes you can get more for your buck and negotiate a bargain with the seller. It’s also usually fresher and better for you.
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in sight, either on the countertop or kitchen table.
- Fruit dehydrators are an amazing investment. Making your own fruit leather is not only yummy, it can help save over-ripe fruit from going bad and is cheaper than buying fruit snacks.
- In the summertime, cool off by blending fresh fruit and freezing it in a mold as a popsicle. Add raw honey if extra sweetness is desired.
- Have a container of diced fruit in the refrigerator as a go-to snack.
- Buy a ‘kid-friendly’ paring knife (usually has dull serrated edges and will only cut food, not fingers) and have your child chop veggies for dinner or lunch at least once a week. Not only can it help them develop an interest in cooking, but they are more likely to be more enthusiastic about eating a meal they helped prepare.
- If you’re at the grocery store and feel like your cart might not have enough fruits and veggies, take a bag of chips or an item that is nonessential and replace it with fruit instead. Think about it – yes, a carton of raspberries can sometimes cost up to 4 dollars. But so can a box of soda cans. These little exchanges can make all the difference.
Source: Healthy Kids NSW