Fruits and vegetables stimulate your child’s senses and appetite by adding a variety of colour, flavour and texture to his meals. All fruit and vegetables are good sources of fibre and potassium. They help strengthen the body’s immune system. They contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre lowers blood cholesterol, while insoluble fibre promotes healthy bowel functions. The vitamins and minerals in fruit keep your child's kidneys working normally decreasing his risk of kidney stones, and helps your child build bone mass. A diet rich in fruit can reduce your child's lifetime risk of certain types of cancer such as throat, esophageal and stomach.
Even though the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are well established, their intake remains low worldwide, particularly among children and adolescents. Five-a-day is a catchphrase coined to popularise the WHO recommendation to eat five servings of 80 grams a day, adding up to 400 grams of fruit and vegetables in a day. The dietary guidelines of Indians, proposed by the Indian Council of Medical Research, recommends – 100 g of roots and tubers (potato, carrot, yam, etc.); 50 g of green leafy vegetables; 100 g of other vegetables and 100 g of fruit, per day for children aged four to six years. The data is interesting but getting your child to eat this quantity is sure to be a challenge. So, what do you do?
Weaning period is the time to start introducing fruits and vegetables to your baby’s diet. You can cook, puree or mash soft vegetables and fruits in the desirable texture for your child. This practice helps the child to get accustomed to the different flavors of fruits and vegetables.
Here are some brilliant ideas to get your child to eat her fruits and vegetables and enjoy them too.
1. Teach about the food on their plates
When you try to familiarise children with the fruits and vegetables on their plates, they’re more likely to eat them. This can be done in two ways:
a. Getting to know the names
While you feed these healthy foods to your children, tell them the names of each food. Take your child with you while purchasing fruits and vegetables, to get acquainted to the different varieties available.
b. Learn from texture differences
Fruits and vegetables offer different textures for kids to explore. Make your child to touch these healthy foods, feel and enjoy their texture. Explain the nature of textures and your child will soon experience what you mean when you use descriptive terms like soft, hard, prickly, smooth, mushy and more.
Read the article below for information on the nutritional requirements of preschoolers.
3. Play games with your children using fruits and vegetables
Introduce innovative tasks like the rainbow task. Arrange different coloured fruits to resemble a rainbow and ask your child to note down how many she eat in a day.
4. Math with fruit
Did you know your child can learn mathematics with fruits and vegetables? Allow your child to count the fruit as you buy them at the supermarket. You can also teach fractions to your child as you cut an apple into halves, quarters and smaller sections.
5. Learning measures with vegetables and fruit
Weigh fruits at home or in the supermarket to help your kid learn the concept of weight. Extract juice out of a fruit and measure the liquid in a calibrated jug to teach volume to your kids.
6. Grow your own fruits and vegetables
Visit a farm with your child. This back-to-nature experience can help him understand how farm produce is prepared and handled, before it reaches his plate. Plant and water easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables in your garden, balcony or terrace, with your child. Start with quick-growing varieties such as tomatoes and beans.
Cooking suggestions to make fruits and veggies fun for your child
- Add fresh vegetables to your child’s everyday dishes, as simple as sprinkling grated carrots on dosa or blending coriander/curry leaves to his glass of buttermilk.
- Add raisins, bananas and other fresh or dried fruits to hot or cold cereals.
- Prepare homemade sauces/ salsa made with vegetables such as tomatoes, mangoes, capsicum, red onions, coriander, garlic and butter.
- Add bananas or berries to dosas and pancakes.
- Serve new foods with favorite foods to increase acceptance, for example, add vegetables to your child’s favorite soup.
- Presentation of foods does matter in your child’s food choices. Make food more appealing by cutting fruits into funny shapes and dress or carve sandwiches with faces and shapes made from vegetables and fruits.
Note: Children under 4 years of age may choke on raw fruits and vegetables, such as grapes and corn. Supervision is a must.
Given that food intake patterns established during childhood may track into adulthood and the potential associations of fruit and vegetable intake with other eating and health behaviours (e.g., physical activity and sedentary behaviour) increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables in your child is therefore a health priority.
Looking for a healthy diet plan for your child? Read the article below.
Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine.