By Caitlyn DePasquale, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s
Spring is upon us and this is the season that we begin to see an influx of fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and herbs in gardens and our local grocery stores. Despite the countless options you make available to your family during this time of year, do you find yourself relentlessly offering your children new fruits and vegetables just to have them turn their noses up time and time again? You aren’t alone. Most children in the U.S. do not meet their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, according to the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
There are numerous ways you can help to increase your children’s willingness to try new fruit and vegetables this spring by allowing them to be active participants in weekly meal planning and daily meal prepping tasks. Include your children in the following task at home.
- Commit to Meal Planning – Allow your children to help create your weekly grocery list. Encourage them to add one or two new fruits or vegetables to your list they will be willing to try over the next week. Younger children may enjoy being challenged to choose colorful produce that range the colors of the rainbow while your older children might enjoy searching for new, healthy recipes in your cookbooks or magazines at home.
- Grocery Shopping – Be sure to take your children grocery shopping with you. This will provide exposure to new foods and allows an opportunity for discussion about healthy foods and eating. Challenge your children to choose foods on the perimeter of the grocery store, as these are the areas that generally house fresh, whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Steer away from the more processed, convenience foods and snacks most often found in the center aisles.
- Meal Preparation/Cooking – Encourage your children to participate in meal preparation and cooking. Appropriate tasks will depend on age. Delegate tasks such as setting the table, rinsing produce, mixing sauces or measuring ingredients.
These are all small ways to exposure your children to healthy eating and may help to increase interest in trying new fruits and vegetables. If time and space allow, gardening can also be a fun, interactive activity for children. Your children are sure to be more willing to try new fruits and vegetables after watching their food grow from start to finish. April marks National Gardening Month so now is a perfect time to create a family garden. While planting and maintaining a fruit and vegetable garden may seem like an overwhelming task, start small this spring by putting together a fresh herb garden with your children. Use a small pot to plant herbs such as basil, chives, parsley, mint, sage, lavender or rosemary. Fresh herbs are sure to be a fun way to add new flavors to meals and snacks!
Try this flavorful, nutrient packed dip for dipping vegetables. Children of all ages will be sure to enjoy picking the ingredients from their very own herb garden.
Whipped Fresh Herb Cheese Recipe
2 containers (16 ounces each) low-fat cottage cheese
¼ cup fresh chopped chives
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
¼ cup fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Black pepper to taste
- Combine the first six ingredients and mix well.
- Add black pepper to taste.
Recipe from eatright.org
- At home before a trip, set the stage by offering some of the foods you might experience on your upcoming travels.
- Eating healthy can be confusing with all the choices available in your grocery store. Learning how to read a food label is key to making the best choices.
- Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.