As children grow, it is important that both parents and children understand the increasing need for nutrients during these years. Every day our children are bombarded with ads for unhealthy food and sugary drinks. They are involved with fundraisers at school for cookie dough, frozen pizzas, potato chips, Girl Scout cookies and chocolate candy. Sponge Bob and Dora spewed all over every fruit gummy treat in the store.
After the first year, parents can do a great deal to structure the development of healthy eating habits. The goal is to teach children to like healthy nutritious foods from all the food groups. Parents, teachers and caregivers need to limit candy, sweets and sodas in a child's diet to ensure adequate nutrition for growth and development. The MyPlate food guide teaches balance and variety among all the food groups. When looking at MyPlate, realize that half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
Go to www.myplate.gov for more information. For kids ages 2-5, 1.5 cups vegetables/day. For kids ages 6-11, 2.5 cups vegetables/day.
Getting children to eat vegetables can be frustrating. Most children prefer vegetables that are slightly undercooked and crunchy, attractive in color, shape and easy to eat. Vegetables should be served warm not hot. Parents need to also remember that children like to help in the kitchen. When kids help in the kitchen it's a great opportunity to encourage healthy food habits. Prepare together and teach children about colors, shapes, textures and seeds. You can also teach children about measuring, serving sizes, and how to arrange them on their plate. Start by shopping at the local farmer's market or ideally your own backyard garden. Teach your children the importance of supporting local food. Help them connect with their food by explaining how it is grown, packaged, and delivered. After the food is picked or bought, get the kids in the kitchen and show them how to wash it. Then prepare a dish together. Finally, sit down at the table and relish in the beauty of nourishing your body with healthy sustainable foods.
When introducing new foods at meal times, it is best to introduce them one at a time and in small amounts. MyPlate recommends choosing dark green, red and orange vegetables.
What counts as a serving?
½ cup raw or cooked vegetables
1 cup leafy vegetables
½ cup vegetable juice
- Buy fresh vegetables in season. Attend your towns' farmers markets.
- Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking
- Prepare main dishes, side dishes and salads that include vegetables
- Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the front of the refrigerator. Some examples include: carrots, celery, cucumbers, red pepper slices, grape tomatoes, and broccoli.
- Add extra vegetables to your stir fry, soups, casseroles and stews.
- Use dark greens for salads instead of iceberg. Some examples are: arugula, Kale, spinach and romaine.