Fruits and vegetables play a crucial role in supporting your child’s growth and development. Besides, their adequate consumption is associated with reduced risk of major chronic diseases. But for parents, it is usually a challenge to make their children eat enough fruits and vegetables.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the importance of fruits and vegetables for kids and interesting ways to serve them.
Why Are Fruits And Vegetables Important For Kids?
Fruits and vegetables help provide several nutrients necessary for the rapid growth and development of children. Besides, foods from these two groups help in:
- Enhancing the immune system and thus fighting-off oxidative stress (1)
- Combating chronic health issues in the long run (2)
- Maintaining overall well-being by developing and supporting healthy dietary practices (3)
How Much Of Fruits And Vegetables Should Children Eat Every Day?
Recommendation for boys
|Age (years)||Vegetables (cups-equivalent per day)||Fruits (cups-equivalent per day)|
|1-3||1 – 1.5||1 – 1.5|
|4-8||1.5 – 2.5||1 – 2|
|9-13||2 – 3||1.5 – 2|
Recommendation for girls
|Age (years)||Vegetables (cups-equivalent per day)||Fruits (cups-equivalent per day)|
|1-3||1 – 1.5||1 – 1.5|
|4-8||1.5 -2.5||1 – 2|
|9-13||1.5 – 3||1.5 – 2|
* Cup-equivalent refers to the amount of food from each food group with similar nutritional content (6)
The total number of cups of fruits and vegetables can be spread across multiple servings per day. Consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables ensures health benefits to kids in the long run.
Health Benefits Of Fruits And Vegetables For Children
Fruits and vegetables are rich in essential micronutrients, dietary fiber, and bioactive compounds. These substances can provide several health benefits, as mentioned below (7).
- Energy: Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugar, glucose, and fructose. Both these sugars are condensed sources of energy and are a healthy replacement for high-sugar processed items like candies, colas, and cakes. Eating fruits and vegetables, in recommended portions, can help manage your child’s weight and thus combat lifestyle-related health issues, such as obesity, in the long run.
- Digestive health: Whole fruits and vegetables (with peel) are rich in dietary fiber, which includes soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber present in the fruit helps add bulk to the diet. Besides, it helps in smooth intestinal motility. Both these qualities help regular bowel movement and thus avoid constipation (8).
- Gut health: Whole fruits and vegetables provide fermentable dietary fiber such as pectin, inulin, resistant starch, and lignin (9). These fermentable fibers act as ideal prebiotic support that might enhance gut microflora (10).
[Read: Best Fiber Rich Foods For Kids]
- Immunity: Regular consumption of recommended amounts of fruits and vegetable aid in enhancing gut microflora. A healthy gut microbiota helps improve general health by maintaining the immune system (11). Besides, fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, which also play a role in maintaining immunity (12) (13).
- Bone health: Several epidemiological studies indicate the direct relationship between bone health and regular consumption of high amounts of fruits and vegetables (14). The prime evidence is the possible ability of fruits and vegetables to enhance potassium uptake (15). Besides, fruits and vegetables contain vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that could also help maintain bone health.
- Cognitive health: It is well-known that green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, and broccoli boost the functioning of the brain. This ability of these vegetables is attributed to the presence of micronutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Fruits rich in flavonoids and essential micronutrients such as berries also help in maintaining cognitive health (16) (17).
- Overall health: Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in almost all the vitamins except vitamin B12. Similarly, they are rich in minerals and bioactive compounds such as phenols, flavonoids, and carotenoids. These nutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that help in supporting general health (18).
The nutrients of fruits and vegetables together provide several general health benefits (19).
Fruits And Vegetables Chart For Kids
It is good to select seasonal varieties of fruits and vegetables as they are fresh and readily available (20). However, you can also include their alternative forms, such as 100% juices, frozen, canned, and dried produce. Below is a list of seasonal varieties of fruits and vegetables that you can add to a child’s diet.
How To Make Your Kids Eat Fruits And Vegetables?
- Involve your kids in grocery shopping. This way, you can show them the variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables that could be included in their diet. Take their opinion about what vegetables and fruits should be brought for the week and what dishes you can make with them.
- Be a role model. Do not say no to any fruit or vegetables in front of your child. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables with your child so that they may also learn to do the same.
- The presentation of food is important for everyone. However, its importance is higher when it comes to attracting kids. Thus, experiment with interesting ways of cooking. The use of different colors of vegetables and fruits in a dish is a wise start.
- Try to keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table at all times. This will help them munch on fruits whenever they are craving for snacks.
- Share healthy alternatives to your kid’s favorite unhealthy choices. For example, you can replace colas with fresh smoothies and fruit juices with fruit salad and vegetable snacks.
- Stick to whole fruit and vegetables. Avoid giving your kids fruit juices as they can elevate blood sugar faster than whole fruits do.
- Educate them to eat raw vegetables, preferably with skin as much as possible. If they do not like raw vegetables, then try giving soft-cooked vegetables as an alternative. Some kids might prefer raw vegetables, while others might not.
- To diversify the use of fruits, prepare fruit-based desserts such as pies, ice creams, and puddings.
- You can try including fruits and veggies in all the meals, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
With the best of your efforts, kids can start eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, at times, they may simply refuse to eat a particular vegetable. In such a situation, you could follow some simple steps to set things right.
What To Do When Children Refuse To Eat Fruits And Vegetables?
If your child is refusing to eat a fruit or vegetable, then you may follow the below steps (23).
- Do not give up if your kid is not eating a particular fruit or vegetables. It may take as many as 15 times for a child to develop a taste for a food item. So, be patient and persistent with your efforts.
- Do not force, nag, bargain, or bribe your child to eat a vegetable. Forcing might make a child lose interest in the food completely.
- Do not introduce a fruit or vegetable to your kid at dinner time. Most children are tired by dinner time and might not have an interest in trying something new.
- For extremely picky eaters, get sneaky. Use shredded or thinly sliced fruits and vegetables instead of big pieces. It will help the fruit or vegetable to stay in disguise. You may try adding broccoli florets or thinly sliced carrots to pasta or green salad. You may also try vegetable sauces if your kid is fussy about eating vegetables.
- Try adding the fruit or vegetable that your kid does not like in the dishes that they like. It will encourage them to try the vegetable or fruit through the dish. The chances are that after repeated trials, your child may start liking the vegetable.
Convincing a kid to eat what they don’t like is not easy. However, while you try, share some fun facts about fruits and vegetables with them.
Interesting Facts About Fruits And Vegetables
Learning more about a fruit or vegetable might make a child curious enough to try it.
Interesting fruit facts for kids
The fruit is the simplest food available as it needs no cooking. It can be used as an ingredient in a meal or a food item, or eaten raw! Here are a few fruit facts you can share with your kids.
- Ever thought an apple looks as beautiful as a rose? Well. it belongs to the rose family.
- A banana is actually an herb, while tomato is a fruit.
- Does your kid love mangoes? Then, that’s one thing he or she has in common with orangutans and the rest of the world. Mango is the most loved fruit around the world.
- Apple floats on water as 25% of it is filled with air.
- Did you know that there are around 7,000 varieties of apples in the world?
- On average, a strawberry has 200 seeds, which are actually the plant’s ovaries.
- Pumpkins and avocados are fruits, not veggies. Eggplants are also fruits and are botanically classified under berries.
- Pineapples are called so because they look like huge pine cones.
Interesting vegetable facts for kids
Here are some fun facts about veggies.
- Edible broccoli is a part of the bigger flower. We eat the baby part of the flower as the mature parts of the green vegetable are bitter. Cauliflower is also a flower.
- Vegetables need a warm climate to grow; a few vegetables like kale, carrots, leeks, spinach, parsnips, lettuce, and cabbage grow in cold climates.
- The highest amount of nutrients in a vegetable is found in the layer right under the skin.
- Vegetables are nutritious in any form, frozen or fresh. So are fruits.
- You can cook vegetables in any way you want but the lesser you cook them, the better it is. Vegetables are known to lose their nutritional content when cooked.
- The tomato was declared a vegetable by the US Supreme Court in 1893.
- Cabbage and cucumbers are among the oldest known vegetables in the world.
- Carrots were originally purple. They have a high content of vitamin A and can improve night-vision – who needs night vision goggles, eh?
- Garlic is said to keep mosquitoes away.
- Vegetables with a strong or pungent smell are highly nutritious, as they contain high quantities of vitamin K, C and folate, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Such veggies include cabbage, radish, scallions, and spring onions. The next time your kid complains of a smelly vegetable, tell them it is for their own good!
Fruits and vegetables, when consumed whole, are highly beneficial for everyone. The health-promoting benefits will help in your kid’s growth and development. Besides, they also help protect the child from various health issues groups.
How did you introduce fruits and vegetables to your child? Let us know in the comment section below.
2. Maxine Sharps and Eric Robinson; Encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables: Health vs. descriptive social norm-based messages; National Center For Biotechnology Information
3. How to Eat Healthy; U.S. Department of Health and Human Service
4. Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns; Health.gov
5. Fruit-and-veggie-toolkit-for-kids; Heart.org
6. Cup- and Ounce-Equivalents; Health.gov
7. ChooseMyPlate; USDA
8. Mark L. Dreher; Whole Fruits and Fruit Fiber Emerging Health Effects; National Center For Biotechnology Information
9. Devinder Dhingra et al.; Dietary fibre in foods: a review; National Center For Biotechnology Information
10. Jiefen Cui et al.; Dietary Fibers from Fruits and Vegetables and Their Health Benefits via Modulation of Gut Microbiota; Wiley Online Library
11. Victoria Bell et al.; One Health, Fermented Foods, and Gut Microbiota; National Center For Biotechnology Information
12. Rui Hai Liu; Health-Promoting Components of Fruits and Vegetables in the Diet; National Center For Biotechnology Information
13. Liu RH; Dietary bioactive compounds and their health implications.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
14. Rui Qiu et al.; Greater Intake of Fruit and Vegetables Is Associated with Greater Bone Mineral Density and Lower Osteoporosis Risk in Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults; National Center For Biotechnology Information
15. New SA; Intake of fruit and vegetables: implications for bone health.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
16. Foods linked to better brain power; Harvard Health Publishing
17. 4 Types of Foods to Help Boost Your Memory; Eat Right; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
18. Shashirekha MN et al.; Status of bioactive compounds in foods, with focus on fruits and vegetables.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
19. van Breda SGJ and de Kok TMCM; Smart Combinations of Bioactive Compounds in Fruits and Vegetables May Guide New Strategies for Personalized Prevention of Chronic Diseases.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
20. Macdiarmid JI; Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability?; National Center For Biotechnology Information
21. How to Get Your Child to Eat More Fruits & Veggies; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
22. Encouraging Your Child to Eat Fruits and Vegetables; University of California San Francisco
23. How to get your kids to eat fruit and veggies; Queensland Government
- Top 20 Healthy Habits For Kids To Teach
- Apple For Kids: Interesting Facts, Health Benefits And Recipes
- Health Benefits Of Mango For Kids
- Carrots For Kids: Health Benefits And Interesting Facts
- 13 Best Iron-Rich Foods For Your Kids