Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fruit versus vegetables: What's better for kids?

Inspection your child refuse to eat his vegetables day after day can be very discouraging. Not to mention frustrating. Many children have an intense dislike for vegetables but will gladly gobble up a bowl of fruit in 30 seconds flat. Megan Alsford, an accredited practising dietitian from Nutrition Australia, reassures parents that this behaviour is completely normal. “Veggies are often the first foods kids refuse to eat when they start to exert their independence at the dinner table," she says. The key to successfully getting your kids to eat their veggies is “gentle persuasion and persistence”, says Alsford. And, in the meantime, adding a little bit of extra fruit to their diet may not be a bad idea.

Fruit versus vegetables
Why are vegetables so important?

Vegetables are nutrient-rich and full of fibre. They are very useful to the digestive system and help prevent constipation, which means that kids who eat very little in the way of vegetables can find going to the toilet hard work. “Vegetables also help to prevent diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers," says Alsford. And although it’s fairly rare, children who don't eat vegetables are more at risk of developing a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Will extra fruit make up for a lack of vegetables?

Both fruit and vegetables are made up of essential nutrients that kids need for growth, good health and development.

“Each fruit and each vegetable has its own unique mix of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals," says Alsford. “To help make sure you capture as many nutrients as possible, you need variety”. If your child’s vegetable intake is not ideal, serving more fruit can help, “as a lot of the nutrients are the same in fruit and vegetables”.

However, warns Alsford, it’s very important to continue to offer children a variety of vegetables every day, and not just the types you know they like. Remember, it can take up to 10 times for kids to try and like a new food.

Are vitamin supplements recommended?

If you are worried that your child is not getting enough nutrients, it’s best to make an appointment to see a dietitan, recommends Alsford, before you decide to administer any vitamin supplements.

“While we can put all the vitamins and minerals into a supplement, we can’t quite get them to act the same as when they come from real foods," says Alsford. Ensuring your child has a balanced diet is definitely the most effective way of giving kids all the nutrients their little bodies need.
Tips to get your kids more interested in vegetables

When it comes to healthy eating, the best thing you can do as a parent is lead by example, says Alsford. “It’s not fair to expect kids to eat foods you won’t eat," she says.

Here are some other ways to help your children increase their veggie intake:

* Offer some veggies to snack on while you are preparing their lunch or dinner – something like a few carrot sticks or a cup of frozen peas always goes down well.
* Offer vegetables as an entre, before the main meal. The more creative your presentation, the better. If your kids are hungry, the chances of them eating their veggies will be greater.
* Try veggies in different ways; some kids like them raw, others prefer them soft-cooked, while others have a preference for partially cooked and slightly crunchy veggies.
* Grate veggies into your kids' favourite meals – bolognaise or other tomato-based sauces can hide grated carrots, zucchini and mushrooms very well. Or you could try mixing chopped cauliflower into plain rice.

The most important tip is to not to make a fuss. Always offer and keep offering vegetables every day, and let your child choose whether he is going to eat them or not. Eventually, you will find a way to give him something he enjoys. Do some experimenting, stay calm and don’t give up.


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