Eating our fruits and vegetables: It’s a family affair

By Vanessa Chrisman, CHOC clinical dietician

Five a day. Eat the Rainbow. Have a plant. Fruits and veggies for better health.

These are just a few health slogans that encourage people to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Most Americans know that eating fruits and vegetables is important for good health, yet the daily intake of fruits and vegetables has been declining over the last 15 years. Concurrently, obesity numbers have been skyrocketing.

Why eat more fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of important nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. Research shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure; reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke; prevent some forms of cancer; lower the risk of digestive issues; maintain eye health; regulate blood sugar and control appetite.

With so many health benefits, it makes sense that parents would want their children to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that help children grow and thrive, as well as build immunity to ward off illnesses.

How many servings of fruits and vegetable do children need?

When it comes to how much to eat, it depends on the age of the child. Younger children should eat 1-2 cups of vegetables and 1-2 cups of fruit per day, while adolescents and teens should eat 2-3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily.

How do we get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?

  • Serve as a role model by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables at meals and snack times yourself.
  • Choose a recipe featuring a new fruit or vegetable each week to try together as a family.
  • Have fresh fruit and veggies washed and ready for eating – kept in the refrigerator and/or on the table in plain view for easy accessibilty.
  • Fill half the dinner plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Let children help with choosing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and include children in food prep at home.
  • Add vegetables into spaghetti sauce, soups, smoothies, and stir-fries. Use different seasonings and cooking methods to create more variety and appeal.
  • Send fruit to school as a snack – it’s the perfect the sweet,healthy snack.
  • Use different dips and sauces to make fruits and vegetables more exciting.
  • Be patient and avoid force feeding or bribery. A new food may need to be offered and tasted many times before it is accepted by your child. Use these extra tips to help your kids try new fruits and vegetables.
  • Make salads with colorful fruits and vegetables. Use different colors, textures, shapes, and flavors that appeal to children.

When mealtimes are pleasant and fun, children are more likely to explore and try new foods. By offering fruits and vegetables daily, parents help instill healthy habits in their children that will last a lifetime.

For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program