Fruits and Vegetables
To get the vitamins and minerals they need, children should eat three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits every day. One serving equals two thirds cup of raw, leafy vegetable; one third cup of raw, cooked, or canned fruit or vegetable; a small piece of fruit; one half cup of fruit or vegetable juice; or one sixth cup dried fruit. These daily servings should include at least one vitamin C source (citrus fruits, strawberries, and melon) and one vitamin A source (deep green and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and squash).
Read labels carefully when choosing canned or processed fruits and vegetables, says Trish Riley Vignati, R.D., a research nutritionist at Emory University School of Public Health in Atlanta. Check for added sugar and salt, especially in canned vegetables, which often have an enormous amount of added salt. Look for cans marked "low-salt" or "no salt." Check fruit juice labels carefully, too, to be sure the product is 100-percent juice. Many have added sugar or water.
Children like the variety of bright colors and textures that fruits and vegetables offer, so it'll probably be easier than you might think to get your child to eat them. Vignati suggests these steps to make them even more enticing:
- Take your toddler shopping and let him select one new fruit or vegetable on each trip.
- Add fruits and vegetables (one at a time) to foods you already make. For example, add kiwi slices to yogurt or broccoli to spaghetti sauce.
- Involve your child in preparing vegetables. Even a very young child can wash carrots.
- Cut up a variety of vegetables (with or without help) and serve them raw or slightly steamed with a dip such as nonfat salad dressing.