Monday, November 10, 2008

Fruit Fun for Kids

I meet a lot of parents who are very knowledgeable about nutrition. They know that kids need a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy products. However, I get a lot of questions about exactly how many fruits and vegetables to give to their children. Common concerns include: "Don't they need protein to grow?" "If I give them too many fruits and vegetables, they won't get enough calories."

Below I will provide some reasons that will convince you to offer your children lots of fresh produce. I will also provide some guidelines about how many servings of fruits and vegetables to offer your children. Lastly, I will showcase an orange.

I. Why your children need fruits and vegetables:

* For educational purposes: Fruits and vegetables serve as a very clear agricultural lesson. Wheat products, animal products, dairy products, and oils look very different after they have been milled, or slaughtered, cultured, or refined. However fruits and vegetables (and eggs and fish, and maybe a few other products) look pretty much the same as when they are picked from a tree or plucked from the ground. This is great way to teach children where food comes from. The Carrot Seed is a great book for children that also teaches this lesson.

* For taste bud purposes: Children have many more taste buds than adults have. They also have a natural propensity towards sweet fruits and vegetables, and they have the ability to acquire a taste for sour and bitter fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of their adaptability because it is more difficult to teach an adult to eat vegetables than to teach a child. I don't believe that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," because after all, that is what I do for a living, but it is certainly more difficult than teaching kids. Do your nutritionist a favor and start now!

* For nutritional purposes: Fruits and vegetables come loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In fact, every year scientists are discovering new phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables, which can prevent cancers, ward off heard disease, and do many more tricks. For those of you concerned about protein or calories...they also have plenty of amino acids, so even fruits and vegetables contribute to total protein intake. They also provide plenty of calories for which to grow. Most 1-3 year olds need 1300 calories and 16 grams of protein each day. The guidelines below will provide at least 200-300 calories and 5 grams of protein each day. Thin kids can add butter, oil, or salad dressing to vegetables and dips for fruit. However, many kids in our culture actually need this low-calorie source of nutrients because of the rise in obesity rates.

*For physical and social development: Fruits and vegetables make great finger foods, giving kids ample time to develop their fine motor skills and assert some contained independence. Of course, help them if they can't quite do it on their own.

II. Let's get down to business: How many fruits and vegetables do kids need?
The following guidelines are for children 2-5 years old. For a 1-2 year old, strive towards achieving these goals by the time they reach 2, and hopefully before. You can also check out the new Food Guide Pyramid for Preschoolers.

At least:
One and a half cups vegetables each day
Two servings fruit each day (not fruit juice)
[One serving of fruit is one small fruit, or 1/2 cup cut fruit, or 1/4 cup dried fruit]

Although this seems manageable, many kids still fall short. To help meet these goals, you can use BPA-free Rubbermaid 1/2 cup storage containers to pack up food for lunches and snacks at home and for day care/school. Gladware also makes BPA-free 1/2 cup storage mini-rounds. Three- 1/2 cups of vegetables and two- 1/2 cups of fruit is enough for most kids.

III. Knock, knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Oranges are a good source of vitamin C, folate, calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, lutein and xeanthin (phytonutrients), amino acids, and trace amounts of other minerals and even trace amounts of fat.

Step 1. Cut an orange into triangle segments.

Split the segments apart using your fingers:

Step 2:
Use the triangles to teach shapes, color, and counting. Blood oranges and grapefruit can add to the color scheme. Oh yeah, they can eat them too!

Step 3:
Pack up leftovers

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Find The Carrot Seed here:

1 comment:

  1. Great article! For another fun way to get veggies into kids check out my article on whole food smoothies...