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Problem__Getting Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Problem__Getting Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Read on for the solution

Feeding children a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is an exercise in determination, patience and persistence.  If you know, you know.  One day they love bananas, asking for one every time they pass the fruit bowl.  The next, they throw it back at you, not wanting anything to do with their beloved “nanas” anymore!  And more often than not, fruit is a highly accepted food among infants, toddlers and children – vegetables on the other hand, are a completely different story. 

Vegetable recommendations increase with age.  They start with just 2/3 cup a day for infants and increase to 3-4 cups per day for 18 year old’s but let us pause on that to help set expectations.  What does 1 cup of vegetables actually look like? One large, sweet potato, an ear of corn, 12 raw baby carrots, one large bell pepper or 2 cups of raw spinach all equal a one-cup vegetable serving.  A half-cup serving, for example, translates to 5 broccoli florets, 5 stalks of asparagus or ½ cup of mashed potato!  Dole’s Registered Dietitian, Melanie Marcus, shares that “It’s easy to get overwhelmed with eating and serving vegetables if you’re not familiar with portion sizes.  Instead, familiarize yourself with what a ½ cup serving looks like and be realistic.  When you start using a measuring cup, you’ll likely be surprised that it’s not that much.  Most importantly, don’t expect children to consume adult-size portions!”     

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that parents can get children to eat more fruits and vegetables by increasing the portion sizes.   Their study included 53 children between 3-5 years old who received all meals and snacks for five days.  Children were divided into three groups.  The control group received typical portions of food that met or exceeded the minimum amounts required for preschool students.  The second group aka the addition group, received 50% more fruit and vegetable than the control group.  While the third group, aka substitution group, received 50% more fruit and vegetables but also had other portions of food on the plate reduced.  The findings were significant.  The addition group ate 24% more fruit and vegetable than the control, while the substitution group consumed 41% more fruits and vegetables! 

It is important to note that all children still fell short of reaching recommended vegetable intake – despite eating more.  On the fruit side, addition and substitution groups were able to meet recommendations 45% and 57% respectively! 

Try the substitution method when you’re serving macaroni and cheese with chicken and broccoli.  Add a few more florets to the plate while reducing the amount of macaroni served. 

Use the addition method when making frozen pizza at home by topping with sliced mushrooms, bell peppers and onions with a Caesar side salad!    


Published September 1, 2022

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