Of fruits, vegetables and children

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, it has arrived. Probably unbeknownst to many of us. June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month. It’s not just National Fruit Month or National Vegetable Month, no sir. Someone combined these two recognitions into one celebration that packs a pretty significant wallop. After all, fruits and vegetables are critical to a healthy diet, at any age, but particularly among the young. So, how do we teach kids to eat their vegetables?

Research has shown that children have a greater tendency to try and like vegetables when they are served with foods they already know and enjoy. A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that food pairings might be the way to go when getting children to eat their veggies. Researchers at Arizona State University worked with preschoolers who were between the ages of three and five, and kicked-off their study with Brussels Sprouts no less. They served the preschoolers the sprouts paired with cream cheese and discovered that kids still ate the Brussels Sprouts at a later date without the cream cheese. Now that’s something to think about.

And get a load of this. The American Dietetic Association conducted research on 152 preschoolers who were served broccoli for seven weeks. The consumption of broccoli increased by 80% when it was served paired with a 2.5 ounce cup of ranch dressing as a dip. When they looked at whether regular or low-fat dressing made a difference in consumption, it did not.

You can get creative with your vegetable pairings, but you’re the one who knows your child best. Celery sticks go great with peanut butter, for instance. Cooking a pizza? Toss a few bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions on top. Making a smoothie? Your kids will never know if you blend in some spinach, kale or carrots. And one of the great tricks of all is hiding vegetables in meatloaf and hamburgers, and the benefit isn’t limited to your children’s intake of more vegetables – your entrees actually taste better and will be more moist. So, in honor of National Fruit and Vegetable Month, let’s all eat healthier, but lets focus on showing our children the path to nutritious eating.

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