Many of our nutritional habits as adults can be traced back to the way we were raised and the types of foods our parents prepared for us. With many adults struggling with weight and obesity, it is essential we work toward changing the nutritional habits of our children to set them on the path to healthy adulthood.
As a parent, you know that your children watch your every move and often want to be just like you. While this sometimes can get you into trouble, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to lead by example and show your kids what it means to eat healthy, so they build a foundation of healthy habits to follow as they grow.
But as any parent knows, kids often want to eat the same things day in and day out, and it can be a struggle to get them to increase variety in their diets. And, encouraging them to eat enough fruits and veggies can be a challenge. But don’t be discouraged – here are three easy ways to help get your kids on the right track.
#1: Teach them about nature’s rainbow
The idea of “nature’s rainbow” stems from the fact that fruits and vegetables come in a variety of wonderful colors, and that each fruit or vegetable provides unique nutritional benefits. The many colorful pigments in plant foods are naturally-occurring compounds – known as phytonutrients- which act as antioxidants and help defend against damage that can occur to cells and tissues as a result of normal, everyday metabolism. Each fruit and vegetable has its own unique pigments and phytochemical profile, and the level of antioxidant activity varies among foods, too.
Research is also telling us that combining these foods may be more beneficial than eating them alone. It turns out that the beneficial effects of phytochemicals are enhanced when they are combined. So by mixing up salads, fruit salads and stir-fries with a variety of fruits and vegetables you may be increasing the benefits that each one provides to your body.
#2: Invite your children to go grocery shopping with you.
Taking your children to the grocery store or farmer’s market can be fun and gives them a front row seat to better understand what it means to eat healthy. As you go shop, you can discuss the differences between healthy and unhealthy choices and ask your kids to pick out fruits and veggies they like in a variety of colors. Here are a few examples.
Red: Strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, red grapes, pink grapefruit, cherries, red bell pepper, tomatoes
Yellow/Orange: Cantaloupe, tangerines, mangoes, oranges, bananas, corn, peaches, nectarines, sweet potatoes
Green: Apples, green grapes, kiwi, honeydew melon, zucchini, pears, avocado, cucumbers, snap peas
Blue/Purple: Blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins, figs
#3: Prepare food together.
Once you’ve done the shopping here are a few healthy, go-to snacks your picky eaters might enjoy:
Smoothies – Kids often don’t get enough calcium and many don’t eat enough fruit, so smoothies can help fill both gaps. Plus, they’re quick, easy and kids can make their own. All you need is low-fat milk, protein powder and some frozen fruit. Plus, you can sneak in a handful of spinach or kale for an added boost of vitamins and nutrients they won’t even know is there.
Herbalife Kids Shake is available in three delicious flavors – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, and provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to meet growing kid’s daily needs. It is also an excellent source of calcium, B-complex vitamins and vitamins A, C and E.
To prepare, mix two scoops with eight-ounces of milk, add fruit and serve up a nutritious snack your kids will love!
Veggies and Dip – Vegetables aren’t usually a fan favorite for kids but some sweet veggies can be an exception – carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes are all great to eat plain but can be dipped in fat-free ranch, salsa, guacamole or hummus too.
Berries Make a Sweet Treat – Strawberries and blueberries are packed with vitamin C, potassium and fiber and make a great alternative to sweets like cookies and candy. Instead of ice cream for dessert, you can also mix frozen berries with plain yogurt and top with a drizzle of honey.
Cooked or raw, no one can deny that increasing your fruit and vegetable servings is a great first step toward reaping the benefits of the phytochemicals they contain. Adding new foods, new varieties and new combinations may be even better, and the combinations are endless. By working together to teach kids the importance of eating healthy from a young age, we can shift to a healthier future for all.
Visit Discover Good Nutrition to find more healthy recipes and ideas about how to keep your family active from Herbalife’s nutrition and fitness experts.