It’s a tale as old as time: Little ones turn up their noses at veggies, leaving parents frantic over nutrition. Incorporating fruit and vegetables into your child’s daily diet is essential to ensure they’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals to assist their development. However, while encouraging kids to eat a rainbow of different fruits and veggies is important, it’s often easier said than done. If you’re worried about your child’s aversion to greens, you’re not alone. Luckily, with a few simple adjustments from your pediatric care provider, you can be on your way to raising a more adventurous eater.
Step 1: Know Your Serving Sizes
Proper nutrition isn’t quite as easy as, say, a single serving of broccoli. To ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need, make sure to read up on recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Below are a few general daily guidelines provided by the Office of Disease Prevention:
- One to two years old: two servings of vegetables, half a serving of fruit
- Two to three years old: two to three servings of vegetables, one serving of fruit
- Four to eight years old: four servings of vegetables, one and a half servings of fruit
- Nine to 11 years old: five servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit
- 12 to 18 years old: five and a half servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with these guidelines, you’ll be able to develop a comprehensive nutrition plan for your child year after year.
Step 2: Start Small
Children who grow up around a diverse array of healthy foods tend to be more likely to make healthy choices later in life. Conversely, if little ones are surrounded by unhealthy foods early in life, they’re more likely to develop preferences toward those foods. The best way to get kids interested in healthy eating is to incorporate fruits and vegetables into most meals.
Not sure where to begin? It’s perfectly fine to start small. Familiarize yourself with different kinds of veggies in the grocery store, and experiment with new recipes for soups, stews or pasta dishes that call for healthy ingredients. Begin adding leafy greens to all wraps and sandwiches, and toss unfamiliar vegetables like snap peas into stir fry dishes. As you start to integrate more vegetables into kids’ diets, they’ll become more familiar with them, without being forced to eat a bowl full of brussels sprouts.
Step 3: Get Sneaky
When in doubt, it’s okay to get a bit sneaky. Foods like spaghetti sauce, stew and chili are all great opportunities to sneak in a few leafy greens, which adds nutritional value without kids noticing. You can add greens to nearly every meal—for example, add spinach or kale to eggs or breakfast egg muffins in the morning. For dessert, instead of preparing a traditional chocolate cake, try a chocolate zucchini bread or banana bread. You can also give kids tasty smoothies for breakfast with nutrient-dense ingredients like berries, coconut oil, raw almonds, flax seeds, avocado and peanut butter.
Getting kids to eat their veggies is an ongoing battle, but a few tricks can make a world of difference. With a little persistence and creativity, you’ll help your child make healthy choices for the rest of their life.
Want to find out about other ways to encourage lifelong wellness for you and your family? Reach out to Kare Health and Wellness in Springfield, Missouri at 417-881-4994. Our goal is twofold: to improve your immediate health and prevent future health issues through functional medicine. We believe that food is often the key to a long, happy life, which is why we offer nutrition education as part of our integrative system for pediatric care in Springfield Missouri.