03/26/2019

Ten ways parents can get their kids to eat more fruits and veggies

As a mom of three young children, Haley Cox knows it can be difficult to get your child to pick apple slices over French fries. As a clinical dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Cox also knows the importance of getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Parents and guardians should encourage their kids to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, Cox says. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. And, not only are they a convenient, quick and nutritional snack, but fruits and vegetables are low in fat, sodium and calories.

Haley Cox
Haley Cox, St. Joseph's Hospital Clinical Dietitian

Diets dominated by fruits and veggies can reduce the risk of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These plant-based foods also help you feel healthy and energized, and getting children in the habit of eating fruits and veggies early in life helps them continue that trend through adulthood.

“Fruits and vegetables are nutritious and delicious and fun to eat,” Cox says. “There’s a rainbow of colors to choose from which provide a great source of antioxidants, unlike sugary snacks and fast food, which are high in fat and sugar.”

Related Article: How colorful is your diet?

Because vegetables and fruits contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, the benefits of children eating them are many, including:

  • Promote good health and protect against disease, both now and in the future
  • Ensure the child has healthy growth and development
  • Strengthen the immune system and help fight illness
  • The high fiber content can aid in bowel regularity and prevent constipation

What’s recommended for children?

For children ages 2 to 6, the recommended daily amount of vegetables is three servings and two fruit servings, Cox says. Older children should aim for four servings of vegetables a day and three fruit servings.

Serving size examples can include:

  • 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Cox does advise parents to be weary of canned fruit and juices because they can contain added sugars. “Ensure it’s 100 percent juice and not a juice ‘drink’ full of sugar,” she says.

Tips to get your child to eat more fruits and veggies

Just because we know something is good for us or our kids, doesn’t mean it’s always easy. However, there are several ways parents can get their kids to eat more fruits and veggies. Cox suggests:

  1. Let the kids help in washing and preparing the fruits and vegetables.
  2. Slice fruits and veggies so they are easy to grab and snack on.
  3. Add diced or pureed fruits and vegetables to muffins or other desserts.
  4. Add diced vegetables to your child’s favorite meal, such as spaghetti, meatloaf or other casseroles.
  5. Grow vegetables and herbs at home to teach children where food comes from and encourage them to try new foods. “Kids are more likely to try a small bite of carrots, broccoli or tomatoes if they’ve helped to plant and pick them,” Cox says. If you don’t have space for a garden, a window box or planter also can work.
  6. Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal – add it to cereal, on top of a salad or dip for an after-school snack.
  7. Eat together. Research shows that kids eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and sugary drinks when they eat with the entire family.
  8. Avoid buying high calorie foods such as chips, cookies and candy bars. Your child may not ask for these treats if they are not in sight.
  9. Be a role model – eat more fruits and vegetables yourself.
  10. Have fun and get creative with your meals.
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