Eating fruit and vegetables helps our kids grow and develop, boosts their vitality, reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, and keeps them fit and healthy. Not to mention, they're a great source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre!
Research from Healthy Kids NSW revealed 56% of primary and 80% of secondary school students do not consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables. This can be due to several factors, such as fruit and veggie availability, intolerances, prior experiences with food, textures, unwillingness to try, etc.
As parents, we're across Australia's guideline of 1-2 serves of fruit and 2-5 serves of veggies daily. But how do we — and especially our kids — fit them all in, you ask? Well, we've rounded up 5 fabulous tips to inspire your kids to eat their fruit and veg! George the Farmer to the rescue!
1. Encourage a curiosity in veggies!
Vegetable Orchestra is the perfect picture book to get kids curious about not-so-perfect-looking or even slightly strange-looking veggies. This ripper picture storybook is fun to teach kids about vegetables and creativity while answering some of those curly questions. Where do carrots come from? Why aren't they all the same size? Will they really help me see in the dark?
"Jack's discovery of crooked carrots at the local community garden unearths a musical idea for George and Ruby. Will the community dig it?" Looking to start or add to your George the Farmer collection? Add Vegetable Orchestra to the kiddos reading list!
2. Get the kids in on the action!
There are many ways to get our kids involved in the food they eat. Take them grocery shopping and let them choose different fruits or vegetables; go fruit picking; or ask them to help with prep – they can shell peas or edamame, remove the husks from corn or top and tail produce. As the kids get older, they can peel, dice, grate, slice fruit and veg, and even put the whole meal together.
Taco Tuesday's were such a hit as a kid in my family home because I did everything else while mum prepared the mince! There was a newfound appreciation for cutting up the lettuce; grating carrot and cheese; dicing cucumber, red onion, capsicum and tomato - and in doing so, I included everything on offer in my tacos!
3. Watch our Educational Youtube Clips
In a 2012 Australian Council of Educational Research study, it was discovered that 45% of Aussie year 6 kids didn't connect everyday lunchbox items such as a banana, piece of cheese, and some bread as originating from a farm. Say what?! And... unfortunately, there was more. How can children make healthy food choices if they don't know where their food comes from?
Well, we're changing this lack of knowledge through our paddock-to-plate series on YouTube and ABC Education. We uncover the paddock to plate, or product, journey of some of our favourite fruits, veggies and grains. Investigate with George how chickpeas have superpowers, understand how mangoes and melons are grown in the Top End, and learn how many varieties of potatoes are grown throughout the world!
4. Get their hands dirty in the garden!
Research shows that when kids help grow vegetables and fruits, they're more likely to try different foods. Instilling a love of gardening helps kids engage their curiosity and allows them to care and nurture the plants in their backyard. There's something special about a homegrown strawberry bush - not only can they taste so much better, but it's also a sense of accomplishment for the kids! It's also a great learning opportunity for kids to understand what grows on trees and shrubs compared to what we dig up from the ground.
5. Spice up their favourite meal
Next time you make the family-favourite spaghetti bolognese, why not add a few extra veggies in? Does the simple banana smoothie go down a treat at snack time? Why not blend in a subtle cauliflower floret and one or two extra fruits to boost the daily count? Including fruit and veggies in each meal in some capacity takes the load off trying to fit in a plate of veg for dinner. You could add chopped, grated or pureed veggies to pasta sauces, meat burgers, frittatas, stir-fries, and soups. Add fruit as a topping to breakfast cereal or the kids' beloved bowl of yoghurt.
Above all else, having fresh fruit and vegetables (where possible) available for snack times never goes astray. However, it might take children some time to learn or re-learn to enjoy their fruit and vege — just remember, they may need to see the new food up to 10 times before they are willing to try it! Persistence is hard but key!
Do you have any fabulous tips for increasing fruit and vegetable intake in your kids? Let us know!