Getting Your Kids to Love Fruits and Vegetables!
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"My 5-year old daughter and 10 year-old son refuses to eat any vegetables and are not very fond of fruits either. What can I do to make sure they get all the goodness from these foods everyday?"

This scenario is not new to many parents. While we all know that a growing child needs to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, getting him or her to actually do so can become every parent's most difficult challenge. Read on and you will see that it is really not that difficult to have your kids enjoying fruits and vegetables.

Let's start off by exploring the tremendous benefits of fruits and vegetables!

Colourful wholesome goodness!

Different fruits and vegetables have different types of vitamins and minerals. The many benefits of fruits and vegetables can be attributed to a wide range of nutrients and bioactive substances called phytochemicals. Fruits and vegetables with different colours contain different phytochemicals like antioxidants and carotenoids.

Did you know...?

  • Green leafy vegetables are good sources of folate.
  • Yellow and orange fruit vegetables provide carotenoids.
  • Cruciferous vegetables are rich in dithiolethiones and isothiocyanates.
  • Fruits also contain bioflavonoids and citrus fruits contain vitamin C.


Although these terms may sound like Greek to us, these terms refer to various bioactive food components that are good for your child's body.

Fruits and vegetables are also rich sources of dietary fibre. Long heralded as part of a healthy diet, fibre acts as a bulking agent to prevent constipation as well as reduce the risk of developing various conditions including heart disease, diabetes and diverticular disease.

Eat more fruits and vegetables!

Now that you know the great many health benefits, let's start making fruits and vegetables a part of your family's diet!

The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines' (MDG) recommended servings for your family:

"Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday."

To achieve this, you must:
  • Eat at least 3 servings of vegetables & 2 servings of fruits a day.
  • Eat at least 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables at every meal.
  • Eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables everyday.


Here are a few examples of how you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your daily servings:

Fruits - 1 apple/pear/mango, 8 grapes, 1 slice papaya/pineapple/watermelon, ½ guava, 1 tablespoon raisin.

Note: Fruits can be:

  • fresh,
  • naturally dried, or
  • 100% fruit juice without added sugar and preservatives.

Vegetables - ½ cup green leafy vegetables/long beans/french beans (cooked), ½ cup fruit vegetables (such as pumpkin, loofah, cucumber), 1 cup raw ulam.

Note: Vegetables can be:

  • fresh dark green leafy vegetables (sawi, kailan, spinach),
  • non-leafy vegetables (loofah, cucumber),
  • other fresh vegetables including various coloured vegetables, fruit vegetables (tomato, brinjal), root vegetabes (carrot), leguminous vegetables (long beans, french beans), or
  • frozen vegetables.

Fruits & vegetables in meals

Two of the biggest factors that will determine whether kids eat fruits and vegetables are preference and availability. Let's start by making these foods available. Give your kids fruits and vegetables regularly. Let them taste-test different foods. Even if they don't like it or try it the first few times (even up to 10 times!), they may eventually warm up to it.

Here are 5 ways to get your kids to eat and love fruits & vegetables

  1. Serve them. As obvious as it sounds, make an effort to serve at every meal or snack (before or after). Refrigerate cut-up fruits and vegetables in small bags or containers for easy snacking so that they're ready to go.
  2. Be creative. Use some creativity to make these foods fun and attractive. Dice or cut fruits and vegetables into fun shapes, such as cubes or matchsticks. You can also blend and mix them in other meals. Make the plate beautiful using different coloured fruits and vegetables.
  3. Vary your cooking style. Try using different textures and temperatures of foods. For an exciting change, alternate between lightly cooked, roasted, and raw fruits and vegetables. You can also serve fruits and vegetables cool.
  4. Involve kids. Let your kids help out with the food shopping, preparation and cooking. Let them choose the fruits and vegetables, chop herbs and greens with safe scissors, and be in charge of stirring.
  5. Set a good example. Kids pick up on your attitudes towards foods. Eat fruits and vegetables at the table with them and encourage conversation about how these foods tastes, smells and looks.

More creative tips with fruits and vegetables!

  • Add vegetables to pasta, cheese, and sauce; finely chop carrots, and mix them into spaghetti sauce.
  • Make some fruit breads; banana/apple bread are all great choices.

Fruits and vegetables can provide your children with the vitamins and minerals to grow and develop. It also helps maintain a healthy body by boosting their immune system. So what are you waiting for? Get your child and the rest of your family to eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables everyday.
 

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