The foundations for health start in the home
On average, in the UK, adults eat between two and three portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Primary school children in the UK consume an average of four portions of fruit and veg a day, but only 44% of children managed to eat 5 a day. Interestingly fruit consumption decreases between Reception and Year 2, and as children get older their consumption of fruit continues to decrease. Children having school meals have a much higher intake of vegetables than those taking packed lunches to school. Their intake of sugar and salt is lower too.
What can you do to ensure that your children are getting 5 a day?
The best tip I can give you is to make fruit and vegetables part of every meal and snack. For breakfast add slices of chopped banana or apple to cereal, stir berries into porridge, or simply offer your child a banana or apple whilst they wait for their toast or cereal.
Fruit juice counts as one portion, so offer them some at breakfast time diluted with water. The fresher the better so, if you have time, squeeze the 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 and are an easy addition to a smoothie at breakfast. Blend a banana, fresh or frozen berries with milk or milk alternative - and a handful of oats if you’d like it to be a bit more substantial. As 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 houmous - or another dip choice of course. Great ideas for fruit in packed lunches are bananas, apples, plums, pears, peaches, cherries, berries, apricots, grapes, satsumas, Save larger fruit for pudding in the evening, or for lunchtimes at home: melons, mangoes, oranges, papaya and the like.
Most children love cherry tomatoes, so put them in their packed lunches to. My two loved to make silly faces by stuffing them in their cheeks! Make it fun.
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 contain vegetables then cook them as a side dish. With pizza you can add your own toppings. Shop bought ones tend to be quite mean with vegetable portions, so embellish them with your own favourites – extra peppers for me please!
Always, always offer them fruit as a dessert, rather than anything sweet. If you offer them a biscuit, or cake, they may not then have room for fruit and you’ve replaced nutritious calories, with empty ones. Perhaps puree berries and use them as a sauce with ice cream or yoghurt? Make fruit interesting by creating your own fruit salads, and for younger children make face pictures on their plates. Spark their creativity!
In addition to offering fruit as a snack, why not try olives for a change. Banana chips are another great idea. Don’t offer too much dried fruit though as it is high in sugar.
If your child rejects fruit or vegetables, 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. Reluctant eaters can often be encouraged to try things if their friends do – so have plenty of play dates with good eaters!
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.
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 the 5 a day challenge which starts now – let us know how you get on – and if you’ve got any questions please contact Emily at Bridge to Health who’ll be happy to answer them for you.
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