We all have heard the “5 A Day” slogan from the United States Department of Agriculture for years now. But, did you know that the recommendation has been raised to 7 to 13 servings PER DAY? That may seem overwhelming to the average parent!
Why do we need so many fruits and vegetables anyway?
Fruits and vegetables are full of important nutrients that can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
DID YOU KNOW:
1. Over 20 million children and adults have diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.
2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64% of adults are overweight.
3. According to the American Heart Association, more than 80 million Americans have some form of heart disease.
4. According to the Bogalusa Heart Study, by the age of 12, an estimated 70% of our children have developed the beginning stages of hardening of the arteries.
5. Nearly 50% of obese adolescents remain obese as adults according to the International Journal of Obesity.
These are staggering facts!
Be sure you and your family are on the right track to better health with these 5 ways to adding easy vegetable and fruits to your diet:
1. SNACKING: Be sure to keep fresh fruit and vegetables on hand on the LOW shelf of your refrigerator for easy access by the kids. Prepare an appetizing after school snack like Ants on a Log (celery with peanut butter and raisins) or Potted Plants (small bowl of hummus with baby carrots sticking out and parsley on top for “leaves”) Kids LOVE fun foods! Why do you think they sell so many foods with cartoon characters on them?
2. MIRROR: Let your children see YOU eating vegetables and fruits. The more kids see parents eating healthy foods, the more they will model that behavior. “Do as I say, not as I do” model DOES NOT WORK! You need fruits and veggies everyday just as much as they do. So, EAT UP!
3. COOKING: Simply adding a handful of veggies to an omelet or some berries to oatmeal can be an easy way to add more produce to your diet. Try adding pureed carrots and squash to spaghetti sauce or make a smoothies with low-fat yogurt, berries, ice and even some green veggies like kale and cucumber. (My kids drink this right up and they would NEVER eat kale by itself! I even make the smoothies into popsicles in the summer months.)
4. GARDENING: Planting a garden in the backyard is a terrific way to get the kids involved in what they eat. Growing vegetables gives children a sense of pride and encourages them to eat what they have grown. My children can not wait to get into the garden and pick fresh vegetables and herbs for our summertime dinners!
5. MEAL PLANNING: Make it a priority when planning meals to include as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Serve vegetable soup or a side salad with your meal or a fruit cup with frozen yogurt for dessert. Make kabobs for the grill or roast root vegetables in the oven for a tasty side dish.
Making simple changes to your family’s diet not only will improve their health, it will improve their happiness as well.