How to get your child to eat 5 a day
One of the more memorable health initiatives that the government have launched over the last 10 years has been the “5 a day” campaign. This campaign was born of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that people should be eating 400g of fruit and vegetables every day in order to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 risk factors for global mortality and is responsible for 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11% of heart disease deaths, and 9% of stroke deaths.
On average in the UK adults eat between two and three portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The 2007 report evaluating the success of the pilot of the Schools Fruit and Vegetable Pilot scheme (which forms part of the 5 a day initiative) found that primary school children in the UK consumed an average of four portions of fruit and veg a day, and that 44% of children managed to eat 5 portions a day. These figures are significantly better than prior to the Schools Fruit and Vegetable initiative being introduced when the average consumption was 3 portions a day, and only 27% children were achieving 5 a day. Interestingly they are still finding that fruit consumption decreases between reception and Year 2, and that as children get older their consumption continues to decline. One of the key contributors to the increase in the number of portions per day has been the improvement in vegetable provision in school meals. Children having school meals have a much higher intake of vegetables those taking packed lunches to school, and their intake of sugar and salt is lower too.
The best tip I can give you is to make fruit and vegetables part of every meal and snack:
So what can you do to ensure that your children are getting 5 a day?
- For breakfast you could add slices of chopped banana or apple to cereal, you could stir berries into porridge, or you could simply offer your child a banana or apple whilst they wait for their toast or cereal to be ready.
- Fruit juice only counts as one portion, so offer them fruit juice at breakfast time diluted with water. The fresher the better, so if you have time squeeze oranges yourself.
- If having fresh fruit is a problem, keep a pack of frozen berries in the freezer and defrost them as needed. They are often cheaper when berries are out of season in the UK
- Have a smoothie for breakfast. Just simply blend a banana, some fresh or frozen berries, some milk or milk alternatives (oat milk, soya milk or rice milk) and a handful of oats if you’d like it to be a bit more substantial. As their tastes mature maybe throw in a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds to add a bit of texture and some valuable essential fats.
- If your child eats at home with you or has a packed lunch make sure that you offer them at least two vegetables and one piece of fruit at lunchtime.
- You could chop up peppers, celery, carrots and let them dip them in hoummous or another dip.
- Most children love cherry tomatoes, so put them in their packed lunches. My two love to make silly faces by stuffing them in their cheeks.
- Always, always offer fruit as a dessert, rather than anything sweet. If you offer them a biscuit or cake first they may not have room for fruit, and you’ve replaced nutritious calories, with empty ones.
- Great ideas for fruit in packed lunches are bananas (buy a banana guard to stop them getting squashed!), apples, plums, pears, peaches, cherries, berries, apricots, grapes, or satsumas.
- Save larger fruit for pudding in the evening, or for lunchtimes at home: for example melons, mangoes, oranges, papaya.
- At dinner time ALWAYS offer a minimum of two vegetables and vary them from day to day. If you are serving a dish that doesn’t naturally contain vegetable then cook them as a side dish
- If you are having pizza, add your own toppings. Bought ones tend to be quite mean with vegetable portions, so embellish them with your own favourites.
- Make fruit interesting by creating your own fruit salads, or for younger children making face pictures on their plates.
- Puree berries and use them as a sauce with ice cream or yoghurt.
- In addition to offering fruit as a snack, why not try olives for a change. Banana chips are also a great idea. Don’t offer too much dried fruit though as it is high in sugar.
- If your child rejects a fruit or vegetable don’t give up. It can take a child up to 20 times to try a new food. Don’t put any pressure on them to try it. Just gently encourage them to play with it, smell it and lick it. Eat it in front of them so that they can see that you enjoy it.
- There is a fantastic magnetic 5 a day reward chart by Doowell, which is available from Amazon. When they were younger my boys loved filling it up with the magnets, and it really motivated them to eat their 5 a day. You could also encourage trying new types of fruit and veg by using the chart.
- And finally another great way to get kids interested in fruit and veg is to get them involved with growing them, or at the very least picking them either from your garden or from a pick your own farm.
So good luck with your family’s 5 a day challenge – you never know you might start eating more too!
If you are interested in an individualised programme to improve your child’s diet or would like help with other health issues, please call Emily Fawell DipION, Nutritional Therapist on 07967 639347 or contact me via email Emily@4wellpeople.co.uk