Add color to your child's diet
It's important to get a variety of red, yellow, green, orange, purple and white fruits and vegetables into your diet. According to dietitians from Children's Hospital's Nutrition Department, colorful fruits and vegetables provide the wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (natural substances that help protect against disease) your body needs to maintain good health and energy levels.
Eating at least one vitamin A rich fruit or vegetable (such as cantaloupe, mango, peach, apricot, sweet potato, carrots, greens or broccoli) and having a good source of a vitamin C rich food (such as strawberries, oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, potato, cantaloupe, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green pepper and greens) every day is recommended. Based on the idea that children are sometimes more likely to try these new tastes if they are dressed up a bit or disguised in foods they are familiar with, the following suggestions may help ensure your children "eat their colors."
- Offer bread and cookies made with fruits and vegetables such as applesauce, cranberries, bananas, pumpkin or zucchini.
- Mix mashed or pureed fruits into pancake batter.
- Puree cooked or canned vegetables, such as carrots, and mix with pasta sauce. Try adding small pieces of vegetables – finely chopped broccoli, shredded zucchini, peas or carrots – into casseroles, soups and pastas.
- Make homemade baked sweet potato fries.
- Use dips and cheese to "dress up" vegetables, such as Ranch Dip with carrots or broccoli with cheese. Try a cream cheese dip with apples, strawberries or other fresh fruit slices.
- Make fruit smoothies with a variety of fruits such as strawberries, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, peaches and mandarin oranges. Offer 100% fruit juice or V8 V.Fusion juice (which contains fruits and vegetables).
- Add shredded carrot or zucchini to meatballs, meatloaf or into ground beef for hamburgers.
- Top a pizza with small pieces of veggies – peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, etc.
Getting children involved can help too. Take your children grocery shopping and have them pick out the fruit or vegetable they would like to try. Let them help you prepare the meal or start your own home garden so children can watch the vegetables grow before they eat them. Also, it's important for the whole family to "eat their colors." One of the best ways parents can influence their children is to be a good example, so be sure you eat your fruits and vegetables too!
In 2011, the USDA announced MyPlate, replacing MyPyramid. To find out how your child's diet stacks up and what portions you should be working toward to help your child maintain a varied, well-balanced diet, visit www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlatePlan and enter your child's age, sex, weight, height, and activity level.