Oct 25, 2009

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!

"Eat your vegetables!" How often did we hear this as kids? How often do we say this as parents? Well....I'm avoiding those words. Taking them out of my vocabulary. Completely. Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of our diet...not what a child "has to eat before the treat!" (Hate the word "treat" too because it usually refers to stuff that we shouldn’t be encouraging kids to want all the time!)

Childhood obesity is a real problem in this country. Too much processed food…too many unhealthy snacks…not enough exercise. Children are suffering. We do so much to protect them in so many other ways…eating right is really one of the best gifts we can give our children that will last their entire lives!

So, how to encourage healthy eating with a preschooler? Here is my approach with Ethan:

1 - PICK IT YOURSELF! Kids love to make their own choices whether it's picking the apples at a farm, choosing which peaches to buy at the farmer's market, filling the cart at the grocery store, or picking their favorite fruit from the fridge for a snack. I find that giving Ethan choices is a win-win. I’m happy because I offer 2 or more choices that are healthy and he’s happy because he chooses. Taking Ethan different places to “pick” fruits and veggies makes it more fun for him. To the farms: apple picking, blueberry picking (start young – Ethan was not yet 1 year old and I carried him in a baby bjorn carrier the first time we went blueberry picking!). When I visit my friend Karen in California, we can walk into the backyard and pick the most delicious avocados from a gorgeous tree. The colors, smells, and tastes of farmer’s market are always a big hit! Taking a note pad with us to the grocery store that Ethan has “written” our shopping list on makes the trip a fun adventure for him.

Pick of the Day:

2 - GET THE GADGETS AND THE GEAR! Kids love gadgets --- things like an old-fashioned lemon juicer, apple slicer, apple corer, zester, egg slicer, garlic press are fun for them to use--- even a simple vegetable peeler is a big hit! And, of course, what child doesn’t love the puree button on the food processor? Kids also enjoy "dressing the part". Ethan LOVES his apron!! And oven mitts are great fun too!

Peeling carrots for “carrot pennies” recipe from Pretend Soup (notice the intensity!):

3 - MAKE IT YOURSELF! Kids love to slice, dice, mix and make things --- and everything is better if they make it themselves! Making snacks, smoothies, meals --- whether simple or complicated --- is always a fun activity. Ethan loves to help in the kitchen; packing his own lunch is empowering. Making our own "ice cream” from frozen fruits is always a favorite (Just throw some frozen fruit into the food processor with yogurt or orange juice and whip to an appealing consistency.) We love the recipe book for kids called Pretend Soup. It has easy to make recipes with easy to follow-up sketches for children not yet reading. My friend Karen was visiting and Ethan was so excited to show her his recipe book. I laughed so hard when I heard him say to Karen “Look at my Fake Soup book…it has lots of recipes!”

Reading Pretend Soup:

Easy to follow sketches:

Ethan loves cooking "Carrot Pennies" and "Zucchini Moons" from Pretend Soup.

"Hey! I can cook 2 things at once!":

4 - ALWAYS AVAILABLE! I follow the approach my friend Bonnie recommended…always have fresh fruits & veggies available for snacks. We keep a bowl of fruit out on the table and veggie snacks in the fridge.

A bowl full of healthy choices:

5 - TRY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT! Try new fruits and veggies…and try new recipes! Ethan loves “samples.” We had a blast at the Marin Farmer's market while visiting my brother and sister-in-law. It is a wonderful market where you can sample lots of things...Ethan's favorite was all the choices of peaches. Now anytime we have peaches, he says "remember those really good special organic white peaches we had at the Farmer's market with Aunt Jen and Uncle Buddy?” Whole Foods does a great job of offering samples that entice children to try healthy options. Also, try new recipes & new ways of eating veggies. Ethan loves to eat frozen veggies as a snack (his favorites are frozen corn and frozen peppers). I just joined an organic fruit and veggie co-op that has been great. Since our “share” is composed of different fruits and veggies each week, Ethan gets to try new things each week and it forces me to try new recipes so things don’t get boring.

Part of our bi-weekly co-op share (Yum!):

6 - MAKE IT FUN! We make up funny/silly names like "absolutely amazing atomic asparagus"; "mean green St. Patty’s Day green beans"; “crazy cool cantalope”. Ethan loves when we make up silly names together!

Most of all....start from the beginning! Give kids good healthy fruits and veggies as babies! Try new things: frozen pepper circles make great teethers (more great advice from my friend Bonnie). Ensure fruits and veggies are flavorful. Eat at the peak of ripeness for the best flavor. Prepare in flavorful ways. (I added spices to Ethan's baby food much to my pediatrician's dismay...but I'm convinced it helped him to love flavorful food.... some baby food is so bland....). Make fruits and veggies appealing in all ways! Check out our fruit and veggie board books by Sara Anderson. I love Sara's work. What child won't love fruits and veggies with their first look at these appetizing pictures!!!

Love these veggie rattles and board books!

And don’t forget to eat your fruits and veggies – your children are watching!


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