Each September fruits and veggies are celebrated. And why not! They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. What are phytonutrients? Well actually they are pigments that give produce all its pretty colors! But this sweet produce, with all its phytonutrients, is more than just a pretty face! It can provide protection against chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and many types of cancer, as well as other health maladies. Also, fruits and veggies are low in sodium, with no cholesterol and have little to no fat. And with all the fiber and water in produce, it helps weight control by filling you up on very few calories.
The daily dosage recommendation of fruits and vegetables depends on your age, gender, and calorie level. Generally speaking they are:
- Women = 3 ½ to 5 cups
- Men = 5 to 6 ½ cups
- Kids 2-3 = 2 to 3 cups
- Kids 4-13 = 2 ½ to 5 ½ cups
- Kids 14-18 = 4 to 6 ½ cups
There are hundreds of different fruit and vegetable varieties to choose from that come in all shapes, sizes and textures (so don’t tell me you don’t like fruit or vegetables unless you’ve tried them all!). You can also choose from many forms – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice. Choose from these forms for convenience and cost. For example, dried last a long time, don’t require refrigeration, and can be easily transported in baggies either alone or as part of a trail mix snack. It can also be added to oatmeal for sweetness. Fresh fruits and veggies taste great but must be eaten soon after purchase, whereas canned and frozen will last for a long time and are generally less costly.
Having trouble getting your child to eat their veggies? Be creative. My daughter was the world’s pickiest eater when she was younger. I used to chop broccoli florets, onion, peppers, and tomato and put in an omelet; mix broccoli and/or cauliflower florets in tomato sauce and serve with spaghetti instead of meatballs; or blend fruits and veggies in a smoothie. Also, have your child participate in meal planning, shopping and preparation, to the extent that their age/ability allows. This will give them “buy-in” and make them more likely to eat what they had a hand in doing. Talk to them about how fruits and veggies are grown on a farm. Create scenes on their plates using fruits and veggies. The more familiar children are with fruits and vegetables, and the more positive associations they have with them, the more likely they are to eat them. Kids take a while to warm up to things with which they are not familiar. So make them familiar, and in a positive way!
For more information about fruits and veggies, as well as an almost limitless supply of recipes, check out the Produce for Better Health’s Fruits and Veggies-More Matters site at http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/ .