As parents, we understand the need of providing our children with a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes foods from all of the ROY G. BIV color palettes each day. Actually, that’s the ideal scenario, but as any mom will tell you, it’s much easier said than done! Fresh fruits and veggies may help our children grow physically, but a recent study reveals that they may also aid them mentally and emotionally. In a major way, in fact.
Recently, researchers in the United Kingdom studied 9,003 students in 50 different schools, collecting data on what the children ate daily, mental health assessments, and what kinds of food are available in schools. In addition, the research found evidence of the following things:
- Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables has been related to a higher level of happiness.
- Studies show that children who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily had better mental health.
- The kinds of food students ate for breakfast and lunch were also linked to better mental health in both primary and secondary school.
Studies like this intrigue me as a mom because I know how fantastic they sound in principle, but how tough it is to implement. Getting a picky eater to eat vegetables is already a challenge when you have one at home. What’s a good place to start out?
The following are some creative methods I’ve used to assist improve the number of fresh fruits and vegetables my three children eat each day.
While this may seem like common sense, I simply asked my children which fruits and vegetables they liked, disliked, or found revolting. Cucumbers and green peppers are favorites of all three of my children, while spinach and cauliflower are abominations. That’s a good place to begin.
Bring in additional vehicles as a backup.
The fact that my children enjoy noodle dishes prompted us to start buying spinach, tomato, and other vegetable-based kinds of pasta. Both of them agreed that spinach wasn’t too awful when prepared in this manner.
Fun shapes can make a difference. It may sound unusual, but it’s true. Cut-outs made from cookie cutters, spears, rounds, chopped “poppers,” etc. My kid claims to despise tuna fish sandwiches, but when I cut her bread with festive cookie cutters, she devours them.
Smoothies are a wonderful thing.
Smoothies are a favorite breakfast item for my children. There are loads of nutrients and vitamins in the plant-based protein powder that we use in our smoothie, however, it has no effect on the flavor. My family’s favorite smoothie combinations include the following:
- Yogurt with blueberries with spinach and banana
- Nut butter and banana with almond milk
- banana, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla yogurt combine to make pumpkin puree.
- Kale, frozen strawberries, and a fruit and berry yogurt parfait
Make a list of all the different foods you want to try.
Every week, we have a new cuisine for the kids to try in our family’s bucket list food adventure calendar. Until last week, they’d only tasted dragon fruit once, and only my pickiest eater seemed to care eating it. With this approach, you may engage the entire family in some fun and educational culinary endeavors.
Plan a (strategy-based) surprise strike.
I understand why some parents object to hiding food in their children’s meals. For my part, I don’t mind if vegetables like kale or beans are obfuscated in a dish (lentils and other beans are great candidates for hiding). When we have taco night, I’ll put refried beans on the bottom of the taco shells before adding the beef and cheese. On top of all of that, I’ll throw in some minced spinach or kale with the beef.
Take advantage of snacks.
Snacks are as important to my children, as they are to many others. Certain dishes are more popular when offered as a snack rather than as a meal. It’s important for me to match vegetables with protein when I’m serving snacks to my children. Occasionally, I’ll make a snack board with a lot of finely chopped fresh produce. Even if the same thing might be a flop at supper, it’s a smashing success as a snack. There are many mysteries in parenthood, and this is one of them.
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