When my son Tyler was about two, we moved his high chair into the kitchen to “help” us make dinner. We gave him a bowl and romaine lettuce and asked him to tear it into bite-sized pieces. He began to bite off pieces of lettuce and spit them into the bowl!
Unfortuntately, fruit and vegetable consumption by most children is even lower than than that. Researchers at Ohio State University looked at data on 6500 children, ages 2-18, and found that they consume an average of 2 cups of fruits, vegetables, and juice. For many kids, this is well below the recommended 2 to 6.5 cups per day (depending on their total calorie intake).
It is not just that their intake is on the low side, but their selection is pretty limited too: french fries were the most common vegetable (about 25% of their vegetable intake) and 40% of their fruit was in the form of juice. I know some adults aren’t doing much better.
- Offer a variety of fruits and veggies at meals and snacks
- Involve the kids in shopping, selecting, and preparing fruits and vegetables (just be clear about your instructions like “bite-sized”)
- Go for color to boost the nutrient content. Try our easy Grilled Vegetables (see Resources > I Am Hungry! Recipes)
- Start a garden or shop at a farmers markets for fresh, local produce
- Try grilling, roasting, stir-frying and other flavorful cooking methods. You may never want a cold, limp french fry again after tasting Roasted Roots!
Be patient; it can take up to ten exposures to a new food before kids (and some husbands) accept it. Be creative and your family will soon be enjoying more than just fries and juice!
Michelle May MD
P.S. Looking for more great recipes? Check out my 14 year-old daughter Elyse’s new cookbook, Veggie Teens: A Cookbook and Guide for Teenage Vegetarians.