Most kids need encouragement to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The food a child eats in their early years can influence their dietary habits later in life, so it’s important to install good habits and a healthy relationship with food from an early age.
Children are attracted to bright colours, but for some reason their delight in reds, yellows and greens seems to fade when a plate of fruit and veg is served. As parents it makes the job of ensuring they eat 5 portions a day, a real challenge.
Here are our top tips to make sure you hit five a day, and the good news is, they are perfect for adults that are struggling too!
Strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, bananas… anything you have can be thrown in the food processer and turned into smoothie. If you keep a bag of frozen berries in the freezer, or freeze bananas (peel them first) the smoothie ends up with the consistency of slush puppie. Alternatively, you can make the smoothie and freeze it in a lolly mould – a brilliant way to hide your 5-a-day!
Variety is just as important as quantity. Plant foods contain various compounds known as phytochemicals, and we need the full range to gain the health benefits. A good way to make sure you are covering the range is to choose different coloured fruit and veg, as it’s the different phytochemicals that give food its colour.
Kids are more likely to be experimental when they’ve helped to make a meal. “When you involve children in preparing their own drinks or meals, it’s amazing what they’ll try,” says Jane Tobias.
It’s easy to get two portions of different fruits with your porridge or muesli. Fruit adds natural sweetness and is a great source of vitamin C and fibre. Add a combination of raisins, dried apricots, sliced banana, a handful of blueberries, strawberries or raspberries.
Grate some cheese but also grate some carrot. Mix it all together and you have orange and white cheese that tastes like cheese but is also fresh and a bit crunchy! It’s perfect for when the kids have jacket potatoes or you want to fill wraps (great for dieters that can’t give up cheese!). Remember too, that if you get them involved in the making of their meal, they are more likely to eat it.
Adding vegetables such as peas or sweetcorn to your rice is a great way to increase your vegetable intake. You can put frozen vegetables into the saucepan halfway through the rice’s cooking time or simply stir them through the rice for a couple of minutes after it has cooked.
You can also add tinned vegetables to couscous. Choose those tinned in water, without added salt or sugar.
Swap your mid-morning biscuits for dried fruit. Raisins, sultanas, prunes and apricots are easy, cheap, portable snacks for people on the go. About a tablespoon counts as a portion.
There is a great variety available at most supermarkets, often including exotic fruits like dried pineapple and mango. Be careful to choose fruits without added sugar.
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