The benefits of fruits and vegetables for kids are numerous as they provide vital nutrients to support their growth and development. Additionally, sufficient intake reduces the risk of major chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and hypertension.
However, feeding children adequate amounts of fruits and veggies is a challenge since children tend to be picky eaters. But first, we must be aware of how much fruits and veggies children need daily.
Keep reading to understand how you can encourage children to eat fruits and veggies, their possible health benefits, and some interesting facts about these food groups that your child will love to know.
Why Are Fruits And Vegetables Important For Kids?
Fruits and vegetables help provide several nutrients necessary for the rapid growth and development of children. 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
- 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). A healthy gut promotes absorption of necessary nutrients for growth.
- 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 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 using frozen bananas, and puddings.
- You can try including fruits and veggies in all the meals, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Cook and prepare fruits and vegetables with them! Children love being involved in the kitchen. It will effectively increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. Try easy dishes like fruit salad or vegetable salad.
- If you have the space, try to grow fruits and vegetables with you children. Studies have shown that it is effective in increasing children’s fruit and vegetable intake.
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 boiled. Try steaming and baking or eating them raw to save the nutrients in vegetables.
- 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 provide the essential nutrients and fibers needed for the proper growth and development in children. Therefore, you should teach your children the importance of edible plant products and include them in their daily diet. This way, you can encourage them to have as raw and in meals. However, if your little one is a picky eater, you can get sneaky with the food and try including them in dishes your child likes to eat. You may cook different interesting ways to make their diet edible and healthy.
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16. Foods linked to better brain power; Harvard Health Publishing
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23. How to get your kids to eat fruit and veggies; Queensland Government