Fruits and vegetables add vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and more to your child's diet. In fact, fruits and vegetables are the best source for many of these important vitamins and nutrients.
Most kids need about 2 to 4 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. At every meal, include some kind of fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to watch out for those with fatty sauces or added sugar. It's not always easy for kids to understand the value of fruits and vegetables—or to appreciate their flavor. But if you can make it fun to explore, prepare and eat them, your children can discover their favorites—and maybe even convince you to try something new.
Planning and Playing
- Have a Contest: Host a cooking contest for your children, with the special ingredients being fruits or vegetables. Include a variety of healthy choices. Everyone can take turns judging the most creative and healthiest recipes.
- Challenge Yourself: See how many different kinds of fruits and vegetables each member of your family can try. The person who samples the most in a week or a month wins a meal featuring his or her favorites.
- Keep It Colorful: Challenge your younger children to try fruits and vegetables of different colors. Make it a red-green-orange day (apple, lettuce, carrot). You and your kids can also pick one color and see how many fruits and veggies of that color you can find.
- Try Them All: Don't know where to start? Why not try every fruit or vegetable you or your kids can think of? Use this alphabetical list—and see how many different foods you can try!
- Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Avocados, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Cranberries, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwifruit, Lemons, Limes, Melons (Cantaloupe, Casaba, Crenshaw, Honey Ball, Honey Dew or Persian), Pineapple, Nectarines, Oranges, Passion Fruit, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples, Plums and Prunes, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangerines, Tomatoes, Watermelon
- Vegetables: Alfalfa Sprouts, Asparagus, Arugula, Artichoke, Peas, Bamboo Shoots, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Celeriac, Chard, Chicory (Endives), Cauliflower, Collards, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplants, Kale, Lettuce (Iceberg Lettuce, Butter-head Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Leaf Lettuce), Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions, Leeks, Parsnips, Peppers (green, red, and yellow), Potatoes, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rutabagas, Spinach, Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti), Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini
- Spy Games: Play "I Spy" in your store's produce section.
- Pick a Peck: When shopping, let kids select a new fruit or vegetable (or several!) to try.
- Saucy Idea: Make applesauce from fresh apples. Let your kids stir, and add some cinnamon.
- Dip In: Chop raw vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Try bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower or celery, and dip your favorites into low-fat or fat-free dressing. Be sure to read the labels and make sure the dressings aren't loaded with saturated fat and salt.
- Chill with Some Fruit: Put 100% fruit juice in an ice tray and freeze it overnight. Use toothpicks as handles; kids can eat the fruit cubes as mini-popsicles or even put them in other juices! Frozen seedless grapes make natural mini-popsicles and are a great summer treat.
- Mix Them Up: Add fruits and vegetables to foods that are cooked or baked. Toss vegetables into pasta sauce, lasagna, casseroles, soups and omelets. Mix fresh or frozen berries into pancakes, waffles or muffins.
- Smooth Move: Smoothies are a great way to get more fruit—and they're really easy to make! A basic smoothie is just frozen fruit, lowfat (1%) or fat-free milk (and/or some yogurt) and 100% fruit juice. Throw it in a blender (parents only, of course) and blend until—you guessed it—smooth. Experiment with different fruits to find your kids' favorites.
- Veggie Roast: Try roasting vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, carrots, tomatoes or eggplant in the oven. Long exposure to the high heat will cause the vegetables to caramelize, which makes them less bitter and plays up their natural sweetness.
- Top That: Add fruits and vegetables to foods your kids already love. Try frozen peas in mac and cheese, veggies on pizza and sliced fruit on breakfast cereals or low-fat ice cream.
- Clean the Greens: Let kids wash fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating.
- Make it Snappy: Children can snap the stems off green beans, snap open pea pods or snap the stalks from broccoli or cauliflower.
- Tear it Up: Have your kids tear lettuce for salads or sandwiches.
- Slice, Dice, and Peel: Older children can peel and slice carrots, cucumbers, potatoes and the list goes on!
- Measure Up: Let kids measure frozen vegetables for cooking.
- A Dash of Fun: Show your kids how to sprinkle herbs or other seasonings onto vegetables.
- Monster Mash: Pull out the potato masher, and let the kids get after it!Q
- Salad Sandwich: Encourage kids to order lettuce, tomatoes, onions or other veggies on their sandwiches.
- Smart Swaps: Skip the fries and onion rings at restaurants, and order your kids a side salad or baked potato (with minimal toppings) instead. A large order of fries can have at least 500 calories!