Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, a perfect reminder to encourage healthy eating habits in children. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of establishing healthy eating habits from a very early age. Every parent or caregiver knows the frustration that can come with introducing children to new and healthy foods when met with a strong, “No.” Studies indicate that children need to be exposed to a food between five and ten times before acquiring a taste for it. This means not giving up the first time an infant or toddler rejects a food and continue to introduce it into their diet.
MyPlate, part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guideline System, serves up plenty of advice on infusing meals with vegetables and fruits to encourage kids to eat them. We’ve included a few of our favorites here.
- Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator. The visible fruit will remind you and your little ones to reach for the fruit when looking for a snack. Eating healthy doesn’t mean boring choices. Look for fresh fruits and vegetables in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor. Try fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a varied supply on hand.
- Introduce fruits and vegetables by grilling them. Try grilling mushrooms, carrots, peppers, or potatoes wrapped in foil on the grill. Brush with oil to keep them from drying out. Grilled fruits like peaches, pineapple, or mangos add great flavor to a cookout. Or, stir-fry your veggies — broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, or green beans — for a quick-and-easy addition to any meal.
- Fruits and vegetables make easy and healthy snacks. Try dried fruits mixed with nuts or whole fruits like apples. They are easy to carry and store well. For lunch, pack a tangerine, banana, or grapes to eat. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or applesauce are easy to carry and convenient for lunch. Carrots, celery, and cucumbers, to name a few, also make great snacks to complete a healthy lunch.
- Always remember to rinse fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits and vegetables briskly to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. After rinsing, dry with a clean towel.