Is your son’s favorite vegetable the French fry, and your daughter’s favorite fruit apple juice? Do you feel like getting your kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables is a daily challenge? You are definitely not alone! In fact, only about one in five kids in the U.S. eats the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
March is National Nutrition Month, and we’re getting so close to the blossoming colors and flavors of spring, so we thought this would be the ideal time to help families discover new ways to get more healthy colors and flavors in their diet by eating more produce.
Below are some suggestions for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet:
- Fill half of your plate (or your child’s plate) with fruit and/or vegetables at each meal.
- Kids love playful looking food. Try making fruit kabobs or veggie faces on their plates with a variety of cut-up vegetables.
- Have kids count up: My kids know they are supposed to strive for 5 – 9 servings of produce a day, so sometimes at dinner I ask them how they have done that day. They like to count how many fruits and veggies they have eaten and compare who has had more.
- Try to eat a rainbow every day: It can be a fun challenge for kids to try to think of something to eat that is red, orange, yellow, green and purple/blue. (My kids love the interactive refrigerator chart and magnets from Today I Ate a Rainbow.)
- Sneak vegetables into dishes like soups and pasta sauces. Sauté the veggies until soft and then puree them before stirring them into the dish. Or dice vegetables finely and add them to nearly any recipe, even baked goods like muffins or brownies!
- Walk a lap around your grocery store’s produce section with your kids and pick up a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t tried before. This helps get us out of a food rut and encourages the whole family to expand their produce horizons beyond bananas and carrots.
- Find creative ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your snacks and meals all day long. At breakfast time, drink a glass of juice and throw a handful of berries onto your breakfast cereal. At lunch, eat a side salad and a piece of whole fruit with your sandwich. We typically associate dinnertime with vegetables but it’s easy to incorporate fruit by adding pineapple or peaches to a barbeque meal or apricots or dried plums to a chicken dish.
- Think outside the fruit and vegetable drawer: Did you know that nuts, beans, tomato sauce, corn, herbs, avocados, and pickles can count as part of your daily fruits and vegetables?
- Keep fruits and vegetables accessible and visible. Keep a bag of dried fruit in your desk drawer at work and have a large bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter. Do some prep work in advance and make it convenient for you or your kids to reach into the fridge and grab some vegetables that you have already cleaned and chopped. You can even set out a tray of veggies for pre-dinner snacking.
For more suggestions and recipes to make eating a colorful rainbow part of your kids’ daily habits and some interactive activities for kids, visit Kids Eat Right. and www.todayiatearainbow.com/kids-zone/.
Below is one of my favorite flavorful recipes for getting seven colorful fruits, vegetables and herbs into my family’s bodies. How do you get your family to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains? Please tell us by leaving a comment below.
This delicious stew is flavored with fresh herbs and a touch of honey, and finished with tangy goat cheese. Serve the stew over Israeli or regular couscous.
Recipe: Rainbow Vegetable Stew
A colorful way to encourage kids to eat fruits and veggies!
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
- 28 oz. diced tomatoes with their liquid, or 7 – 8 fresh tomatoes, diced, with their liquid
- 16 oz. fresh or frozen cut green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds, if fresh
- 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
- 20 fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese for serving (optional)
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and tomatoes and bring it to a low boil.
- Reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Meanwhile, prepare the couscous, if you are making it.) Add the green beans and herbs and simmer it for 10 more minutes.
- Stir in the salt and honey. Serve it immediately, topped with crumbled feta cheese (optional), or refrigerate it for up to 2 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Add the feta when you are ready to serve it.