The intake of fruit is higher in children aged two to three years. Nearly 4 out of 5 (78%) consume the recommended serving. As kids age, the amount of fruit consumed decreases. 59% of four to eight-year-olds and 39% of nine to thirteen-year-olds consume the recommended 1.5 servings.
To establish healthy eating habits, children need to become familiar with the taste and texture of fruits and vegetables at a young age. Fruit is easier to eat because humans are innately sweet-toothed. Many parents find it difficult to eat vegetables, even though some are sweeter. There are some things parents can do to get their children to eat more vegetables.
Read more: Food as medicine: why do we need to eat so many vegetables and what does a serve actually look like?
Why is color important?
All fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins, minerals and nutrients. We need to consume a variety of these when we eat our daily two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables.
The rainbow can be a good starting point when choosing foods, as it promotes variety. Even the Australian Dietary Guidelines refer to a Rainbow. Rainbows are appealing to younger children.
Fruits and vegetables have different colors due to their components. Anthocyanins, for example, contribute to the colour red, purple, and even blue of vegetables and fruits such as plums and eggplant. Beta carotene, found in carrots, creates the yellow-orange colour.
It is not easy to get kids to eat vegetables. Shutterstock.com
Different colour-associated components can also provide a number of health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system and protecting a child’s eye sight.
Children will find foods more appealing if the colors are complementary. The skins, flowers, and leaves of fruits and vegetables are also interesting and fun. It’s an educational experience for children to learn about the origins of food and what parts are safe to eat.
Boredom is relieved by creativity
Even though some children prefer routines, eating the same food for long periods can be boring for the child as well as the parent. It can also lead to deficiencies in the long run.
Children can create colorful edible scenes, such as a fairyland or dinosaur jungle. Fruit or vegetable juices such as blueberry can be used to color foods.
Age-appropriate creative activities may require a parent to demonstrate them. Children of school age might like to try these tasks independently under parental supervision.
Children can be encouraged to try new foods by presenting them in different ways, such as using containers, shapes, colors, and serving utensils. Children can learn that a meal doesn’t have to be a strict routine by eating with chopsticks instead of a fork and knife, or allowing them to eat with their hands.
It is also a great way to introduce new foods from cultures you have never tried before. Parents can promote exposure to other cultures by creating themed days, where they select a cuisine with their child and make food purchases together.
Include your children in planning, buying, and preparing meals. Assign them age-appropriate responsibilities. Don’t worry about the mess your children will make when they cook. Cooking skills are a lifelong benefit.
Preparing and sharing meals together helps build positive relationships not just with food but also with each other. Talk about your day and turn off the television during mealtimes.
Parents can also use this space to model desired eating behaviors for their children. It’s very likely that your child will adopt the same eating habits as you.
Read more: Six ways to improve meal times with your children
Back to basics
You will have to be persistent if your child doesn’t like new foods at first. You can make these challenging foods, like Brussels sprouts or mushrooms, more accessible by offering them in a variety of ways and incorporating them into different dishes. Let your child see and feel unfamiliar fruits and veggies.
It is common for children to need to be introduced to new foods five to ten times before they are willing to try them. If they don’t enjoy it, you should encourage them to try something else.
Growing fruits and vegetables with children is a great way to engage them. Shutterstock.com
Growing food together with your children teaches them about the origins of food. Marketing messages influence the food preferences of children. It is important that kids learn not all food comes from packages.
If you have the space, plant ingredients in a garden in your backyard or in pots in the window to teach children about the food cycle. Let them experience the process of planting a seed and harvesting it for a meal.
When space is limited, encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables in season . Begin with the ones that they like and then progress to new varieties.