Up Kid's Produce Intake This Summer
Summertime is in full swing, and with kids out of school it is a good time, perhaps, to look at some recent pediatric nutrition research. Data from the 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health looked at produce intake of children between the ages of one and five.
A variety of fruits and vegetables is important for nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These essential nutrients are needed for brain development, a strong immune system, childhood growth, and to aide digestion.
The survey included data from more than 18,300 kids. The results showed that 49% of young children did not eat vegetables daily; 32% did not eat any fruits each day.
There can be a number of factors that impact a child’s intake of produce or fruits and vegetables including
- Taste preferences of the parent or caretaker preparing meals
- Taste preference of the child
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that young children eat 1-2½ cups vegetables and 1-2 cups of fruits every day.
It can be challenging to get kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. It can be more of a problem with vegetables since they do not have the natural sweetness that fruits have; they can also impart stronger (undesirable) flavors when cooked (broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts).
Parents and caretakers need to serve and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables prepared in different ways at all meals. Since days may be more relaxing in the summer and there is the added benefit of garden produce, this might be the perfect time to improve produce inclusion at family meals.
First, select an assortment of colorful produce: red, purple, blue, orange and green. With that said, there is nutritional value to those fruits and vegetables that don’t have that rainbow of colors. For example, white potatoes are high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium; bananas are a good source of the mineral potassium.
Vegetables can be served raw or cooked for different flavors, textures and smells:
- Milder tasting vegetables like squash, carrots and mushrooms can be grated, finely diced, mashed and pureed to be tucked away in other dishes like meatballs, meatloaf, mac n’cheese, and spaghetti sauce, and bakery products like quick breads and muffins.
- Mashed cauliflower can be added to mashed potatoes.
- Add vegetables to soups, stews, quiches, pizza, and slow cooker dishes.
- Sprouts, grated carrots, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes are good in sandwiches and wraps.
- Fruits and vegetables are perfect for smoothies.