“Eat your fruits and veggies!”
It’s a common refrain for parents, teachers, doctors, and school lunch professionals when it comes to getting kids to eat more produce—and with good reason. Fruits and vegetables provide a cornucopia of benefits for kids, including improved nutrition, decreased obesity, and increased performance at school.
To reap the benefits of plant-based foods, one-half of children’s mealtime plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables, while the other half should hold a combination of lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.
Fruits & Veggies: Essential Nutrition for Growth & Development
As children grow, their bodies require good nutrition. Fruits and vegetables contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds, which are all essential to healthy growth and development. When it comes to picking produce, the more colorful, the better—brightly-hued fruits and vegetables tend to contain more nutrients.
Produce powerhouses include carrots, which are loaded with eye-healthy vitamin A, and spinach, a good source of iron that helps prevent anemia. As we enter a particularly virulent cold and flu season, adding more citrus fruits and strawberries rich in vitamin C can help boost kids’ immune systems.
Getting Kids to Eat Fruits & Veggies
Fruits, for kids, are an easier sell given their naturally sweet flavors, minimal prep, and ease of eating whole (like berries and bananas) or cut up (like melon, apples or oranges). How to get kids to eat vegetables, though, can be especially challenging, particularly for kids who didn’t grow up with a lot of vegetables at home.
Here Are Some Tips for Healthy Eating to Incorporate Plenty of Produce:
Encourage kids to try both new foods and different preparations of veggies they’ve had before. Some kids who turn down cooked carrots, for instance, will gladly eat them raw. It could be a texture preference or permission to eat with their hands.
Incorporate Fruits and Vegetables in Dishes
Half a plate of produce doesn’t have to mean a pile of vegetables—more often, it means adding veggies into whole grain pasta dishes, egg bakes, wraps, and quesadillas; or offering lots of fresh toppings on kid favorites like tacos and pizzas.
Blend It Up
Include fruit, leafy greens, and avocado into smoothies, and lean toward veggie-based pureed soups like tomato, black bean, and butternut squash. These allow kids to focus on the overall color and flavor rather than identifying pieces of veggies they’d prefer not to eat.
Improved School Performance
Kids who regularly eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, are more likely to earn good grades in school and have better attendance. On the other hand, students whose meals and snacks largely consist of fast food, candy, and soft drinks may see negative effects on school performance as a result.
Without the right foods to fuel their school day, kids who don’t have access to balanced nutrition may have less energy and focus in the classroom and are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, and chronic health issues later in life. That’s where school meal programs can make a big impact—by offering fresh fruits and vegetables in breakfasts and lunches enjoyed by students at school.
Our Locally Sourced School Lunch
To help connect kids with the fresh fruits and veggies they need to thrive in the classroom, Personal Touch Food Service partners with more than a dozen local farms to feature fresh, local produce on lunch trays. These school cafeterias expose kids to fruits and vegetables they may have never tried before, boosted by the added appeal of being grown in fields and orchards close to their home and school. Along with local dairy products, seasonal produce will include fresh peaches, plums, apples, zucchini, sweet potatoes, summer squash, watermelon and more.
Need Professional Produce Help?
If you’re interested in empowering kids to eat healthier by incorporating fruits and vegetables into enticing meals at your school, get in touch with our educational food service professionals today.