For generations, we moms have been urging our kids to eat more fruits and veggies. Other dietary recommendations have come and gone, but this is one we all have in common with our great-grandmothers. You can never have too much freshly grown produce; it’s good for everyone’s overall health.
June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and in my home, we just love it. Ever since First Lady Hillary Clinton made it official on June 23, 1994, the CDC has partnered with Produce for Better Health (PBH), a nonprofit dedicated to families who are improving their wellness through nutrition. One of its most well-known efforts is “More Matters,” which gives parents shopping advice, produce storage information, budget-trimming tips, and healthy recipes for kids who have even the most sensitive palates. Best of all, they keep them motivated to eat more of the good stuff.
Assign a Task
Beyond listening to your mother’s stories of how she got her children to eat their greens, what can you do? How do you end the dinnertime battles and get your kids to enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables?
First, get them involved in their own meal production. Whether they’re choosing produce at the store, selecting which local farm to frequent, or even growing food themselves, kids will surprise you with their enthusiasm, given the chance to participate.
Once in the kitchen, assign them tasks to get their hands on the food they’ll eat. Let them wash their favorite fruits and veggies before meal time. You might even ask them to tear the lettuces for a group salad every day.
Let Them Create
Invite your littles to share a quick fact with the family about the vegetable before anyone takes a bite. What gives the vegetable its color? What’s its primary nutrient? When growing, did it have any natural defenses against bugs or competing plants? A quick web search before dinner time will supply your little nutritionist with ample information to share.
Does one of your children enjoy serving or hostessing? Give him or her the honor of dishing up the colorful veggies to other family members at dinner time, and doling out the fresh fruit for dessert. Ask your most artistic child to find decorative ways to store your countertop produce neatly in the kitchen.
Shake Things Up
Next, reorganize. This is another activity kids can help with; their observations of kitchenware placement can be surprisingly thoughtful. Start with these changes, and see what else your kids come up with:
- Put fruits and vegetables at eye level when they open the pantry or refrigerator door. Rich meats, prepared foods, and other packaged snacks should be placed out of sight as much as possible.
- Display “Go” foods in a beautiful bowl on the kitchen table, within reach of little hands to touch when wanting sensory stimulation . . . or of course, when hungry!
- Rethink on-the-go snacks. Instead of packing a busy bag full of crackers or pretzels, have apples, bananas, plums, and water—with a splash of 100-percent juice—within reach.
Lastly, have fun! Celebrating National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month is just that—celebrating. Take advantage of the resources you’ve made available, and make them the reason your family enjoys eating together.
- Download some free printable activities they can bring with them to the store. Kids not only enjoy the challenges (like finding different colors among the fruits and veggies), but they’ll also learn what natural foods do for our bodies.
- If your children are younger, they may enjoy coloring pages about veggies. Once they’re old enough to convert measurements, they’ll enjoy some chopped/mashed/sliced vegetable measuring activity sheets.
- Check out Food Champs, which is full of online games for kids—some of which highlight farm-to-fork, whereas others emphasize making good daily choices.
During their transition to a healthier lifestyle, one of your kids may even become an activist for their favorite foods. Encourage more involvement by offering programs to champion this passion, like Farm to School or a personal School Wellness Policy. Have them ask school administration to put up “Rainbow at the Salad Bar” posters in the lunch room, or whether a fun, short nutrition curriculum could be in their future.
How will your family celebrate this often-overlooked holiday? Do you get your kids excited to eat fresh fruits and veggies? Leave a comment for the other curious parents below.
Image source: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.