Proper nutrition is one of the most important things to ensure that your children properly develop and grow up fit and healthy, and anyone who paid attention in health class can tell you that fruits and vegetables are important in good nutrition.
It’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, so there’s no better time to discuss with your children the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Why is it important for children to eat fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They provide children with the necessary nutrients to grow and develop healthy and strong.
Fruits and vegetables also help improve the immune system.
Eating fruits and vegetables has also been shown to provide other health benefits such decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and some types of cancer.
A diet that is high in fruits and vegetables can improve overall health and mood, and has been associated with improved performance in the classroom.
How many fruits and vegetables per day for kids?
While the exact serving size depends on age and gender, your child needs as many as 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables every single day to ensure proper nutrition. But it can’t just be a big plate of strawberries and a giant bowl of iceberg lettuce. There’s no single fruit or vegetable that delivers every nutrient that your body needs, so you need to eat a good variety of produce to get all of your essential vitamins and minerals.
Since it’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, the natural choice for lunch, dinner, or snack time should be fresh ripe produce from the garden, grocery store, or your local farmer’s market. Of course canned and frozen vegetables are healthy and nutritious too. If your favorite fruit or vegetable is out of season, canned or frozen are perfectly healthy options.
Maybe you’re one of the many parents who wonders how you can get your child to eat healthier. You know that fruits and veggies are good for your child, and you know that they should be eating their 5 or more servings a day, but you just don’t know how to get your child to eat their vegetables.
- Remember kids’ tastes may be different from grown-ups. Crisp, mild-flavored vegetables will be preferred over strong-flavored types. Roasting brings out the sweetness of vegetables like squash and carrots, and raw veggies may be more popular than cooked ones.
- Let the kids help. Kids are more likely to eat things they’ve prepared or picked out in the store.
- Notice what foods are competing with those fruits and veggies. The sweetest snow peas will never be as sweet as a snack cake and healthy fries aren’t as stimulating as potato chips. Avoid serving very sweet and salty foods alongside your natural snacks, and your kids will enjoy fruits and veggies more.
Here are some healthy recipes that your kids will love!
Sheet pan suppers are trendy this season, and they’re perfect for kid-friendly meals. We arranged sliced potatoes (you could use sweet potatoes) and butternut squash on the pan, brushed them with olive oil, and sprinkled on a little sea salt. We scattered multicolored carrots on the pan and then added the meatballs from the recipe below. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the carrots and the meatballs have a mild but flavorful taste. The kids loved helping and eating!
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 c. fresh mint, chopped fine
1/4 c. minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced1 T cumin
red pepper, if your kids like spicy food
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together and form small balls with your hands. Arrange them on the sheet pan with the vegetables. Cook in the oven for 25-35 minutes, turning everything halfway through cooking.
Is it a stir-fry? Is it a salad? Either way, the crisp veggies are fun to cut up and fun to eat! Let older kids help cut everything up under supervision, and the little ones can get the salad greens ready on each plate. Add your favorite vegetables to the salad.
Pork Chop Stir Fry Salad
1 lb lean boneless pork chops, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 stalk bok choy, cut into pieces
1/2 onion, diced
1 small red sweet pepper, cut into small pieces
1 small orange sweet pepper, diced
2 c. spring mix salad greens
1 c. broccoli slaw
1 t. orange marmalade
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
2 t rice vinegar
Cook the pork thoroughly in a wok or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bok choy, onions, and peppers, and stir fry till vegetables are heated through. Arrange salad greens on plates. Combine marmalade, soy sauce, oil, and vinegar. Add to pan, stir together quickly, and put stir-fry over the greens on each plate. The sauce from the pan serves as the dressing.
It’s not exactly a recipe, but many kids like a combination of fruits and vegetables more than an entire serving of green beans or beets. Here, we’ve chopped romaine, radicchio, and carrots to go alongside a burger, and put raspberries into the center of half a cantaloupe for dessert. Bright colors and mild flavors make this vitamin-rich meal appealing.
More resources for kid-friendly recipes full of healthy produce: