Does your child eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit daily? Is it a constant battle to get your kids to choose fruit over other more processed "junk" food? On average, American children eat far below the recommended servings of fruit daily and the majority of fruit intake is from juice. While fruit juice is acceptable, it should not be the only form of fruit in your child's diet. In addition, fruit juice lacks the much needed fiber that raw fruit contains. Getting your child to eat more fruit can be a challenge, but with some creativity and persistence you can ramp up fruit intake and provide your kids more of the nutrients they need for optimal growth and development.
While breakfast can be a rushed, hectic time, it's a great time to incorporate fruit. A study by Yale University showed that children who ate low-sugar cereals but had the option of adding sugar or fruit to the cereals consumed less overall sugar and more fruit compared with children who ate a high sugar cereal. Cereals that include honey, sugar-sweetened, frosted and/or marshmallows are examples of high sugar cereals. Try adding bananas, blueberries, mandarin oranges and strawberries to cereals and oatmeal. Fresh or frozen berries go perfectly with waffle or pancake mix or as a topping. Get creative and mix fruits with yogurt for a smoothie or as a dip for whole grain crackers.
Let's start with a classic favorite! Peanut butter and jelly can be made with a twist by adding a layer of banana or strawberry slices. Tuna and chicken salads can be made with extra grapes, berries and dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries. Packing a fruit cup or applesauce is an easy upgrade to any packed lunch. Encourage your child to pick the fruit offered at school by explaining the benefits of fruit to the growing body.
Offer your child a side salad that includes dried fruits, strawberries, oranges and blueberries. Use yogurt or cottage cheese as a dressing to add extra flavor instead of high fat dressings that tend to not mix well with fruit. Try marinating and cooking meats with fruits such as pineapple, apples and pomegranates. Studies have shown that when kids are involved in cooking and meal preparation they are more likely to eat the meal so let your kids choose fruits to add to any dinner. The options are endless!
Pairing fresh fruit with protein such as peanut butter or cheese is a nutritional snack for after school or before practice. Try and keep fresh fruit within reach on the table so kids can easily grab-and-go. Don't label "junk" food as forbidden as that may cause a negative back-lash of constant wanting and focus but try to limit the amount of processed, "junk" food brought into your home. Explain to your kids that all foods are okay in moderation, but some foods such as fruit provide more nutrition than other choices. As a parent, you play the largest role in buying groceries and providing your child with access to fresh fruits but it may be helpful to engage the child in picking ripe fruits and getting their input on the grocery list.
Laura N. Kenny is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian in the state of Indiana. She received both her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at Purdue University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree from Central Michigan University. Laura works for the Indiana Obesity Center PC under the supervision of Dr. Keith McEwen. She specializes in both surgical and non-surgical weight loss including nutritional adherence, meal planning, and macro/micro nutrient status. Kenny also promotes healthy eating through various speaking engagements throughout Indianapolis and teaches indoor cycling and Pilates classes in her free time. Since staring her dietetics career, she has worked with a variety of populations and chronic diseases. Each summer Laura volunteers at Camp John Warvel, a camp for children with diabetes. She also enjoys writing, sports, exercise, and reading "hot topics" in nutrition. Laura has a true passion for guiding people to choose healthy nutritional choices for each and every individual lifestyle. To contact Laura, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.