Some of us will have to struggle a little more than others with getting our kids to consume more fruits and vegetables. But at the end of the day, we know it’s worth the effort.
Sometimes I wonder, 🙂 no really. The reality is we know that fruits and vegetables are integral to our health and well-being. They contain vitamins, minerals and fibre needed to keep us and our kids immune systems strong, our bowels regular, provide us with the energy we need to live full lives and help our kids to learn and absorb the wealth of information they have at their fingertips (1).
So how do we get them to eat fruits and vegetables?
That’s the million dollar questions, and I don’t think there is one simple answer.
So today I’m going to share with you some interesting research and suggestions parents like yourself use, which may be on benefit.
In a Study of middle school aged children, they showed that regular exposure to gardening, visiting farms and seeing how food is produced helped improve their consumption of fruits and vegetables compared to those who weren’t exposed to gardening and farm visits or had lower levels of exposure (2).
Likewise, another study found that getting kids involved in taste testing, cooking classes and food education helped improve their intake as well (3).
Similarly, in a pilot study, they found that there was an improvement in kids consumption of eating fruits and vegetables after participating in a 7-week gardening and cooking program suggesting that being involved in gardening and learning how to cook can be of benefit (4).
Interestingly a study that investigated the effects of norm-based messages and health-based messages effect on kids fruit and vegetable intake, advertently exposed the complexities behind how kids and our food choices are affected by social environment and conditions. It showed that educating about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are helpful, but it also inferred that the way this information is communicated/ presented creates a different impact and outcome (5).
When you think back to how you were as a child and what influenced what you choose to eat, what do you remember as being significant? Is there anything that you can draw on from your childhood that may be of benefit or of use?
Ideas we can take from this?:
Getting kids involved with meal preparation:
- Cutting up fruits and vegies
- Washing the vegies
- Presenting the meal
- Taste testing
- Getting them to help you choose what fruits and vegies go in the smoothie or vegie juice
- Making smoothies together
Exposing them to the process from farm to plate
Exposing them to where food comes from through tactile experiences with information about the process.
Creating positive memories and experiences with food. Many kids love tactile experiences, do yours?
Growing a vegie patch with them
Getting them to help plan the vegie patch
Educating on what foods do what in the body
Educating on the process of farm to plate and how it affects our bodies
What have your experiences been?
What things did you find worked or didn’t? What have other parents you know found useful?
Other interesting points:
Nice to know: Research found that genes do make a difference. In the study ‘Common genetic architecture underlying young children’s food fussiness and liking for vegetables and fruit,’ they found associations between certain genes and a tendency to be fussy eaters (6).
Have you ever noticed the effect others have on your own eating habits? In a study that looked into the social influences on food choices, they found that when eating with someone with healthy or unhealthy eating habits the unhealthy eating behaviour is more likely to negate positive eating habits than good eating practices were to encourage eating well(7).
What can we take from this?
Experiences and relationships matter. Social influence can impact our decisions, so remember the relationship around food can also be an expression of our attitudes and beliefs about food.
In a study (1) on kids for kids on identifying barriers and finding ways to overcome these barriers to healthy eating and physical activity the kids suggested: “support from parents and school staff, better planning, time management, self-motivation, education, restructuring the physical environment, and greater variety of physical activities.”(1)
Could potentially help to overcome the “Barriers included convenience, taste, and social factors.”(1)
So what does all of this mean?
There are many factors that affect our kids and our own eating habits. Creating positive experiences around food through direct education, life experiences and other are helpful in establishing positive eating habits. But there are factors outside our control that will impact.
Since multiple studies support that getting kids involved in the process and educating them on the benefits are helpful in encouraging them to improve their intake of fruits and vegetables, it’s good to incorporate what we can and see what works for each of us.
I hope that you have found something of value in this article,
Wishing you well. Keep positive,
By Kimberley Nightingale
(1). O’dea JA1.Why do kids eat healthful food? Perceived benefits of and barriers to healthful eating and physical activity among children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. [Internet] 2003 Apr (Cited 2017 June 3);103(4):497-501.
Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12669014
(2). Evans A, Ranjit N, Rutledge R, Medina J, Jennings R, Smiley A, et al. Exposure to multiple components of a garden-based intervention for middle school students increases fruit and vegetable consumption. Health Promot Pract. [Internet] 2012 Sep (Cited 2017 June 3);13(5):608-16. Available on: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22290584
(3). Cunningham-Sabo L, Lohse B.Cooking with Kids positively affects fourth graders’ vegetable preferences and attitudes and self-efficacy for food and cooking. .Child Obes. [Internet] 2013 Dec;9(6):549-56. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868269/
(4).Castro DC, Samuels M, Harman AE. Growing healthy kids: a community garden-based obesity prevention program. Am J Prev Med. [Internet] 2013 Mar (Cited 2017 June 3) 44(3 Suppl 3)S193-9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23415183
(5). Sharps M, Robinson E. Encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables: Health vs. descriptive social norm-based messages. Appetite [Internet] 2016 May 1 (Cited 2017 June 3); 100: 18–25 Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4819560/
(6). Fildes A,Jaarsveld C, Cooke L, Wardle J, lewellyn C. Common genetic architecture underlying young children’s food fussiness and liking for vegetables and fruit. Am J Clin Nutri. [Internet] 2016 April (Cited 2017 June 17);103:1099–104
Available from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/103/4/1099.abstract
(7). Robinson E, Higgs S. Food choices in the presence of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ eating partners. Br J Nutr. [Internet] 2013 Feb 28 (Cited 2017 June 3);109(4):765-71 Available on: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22647276