Q. My kid only eats fruit, and no vegetables. Should I worry?
A. I want to first say BRAVO for inspiring your child to eat fruit. You can never go wrong with fruit, so don’t feel you need to downplay this healthy habit just because there’s no veggies. It’s not uncommon for kids to prefer fruit over vegetables. Their young palates get accustomed to sweet flavors very early in life, which is reinforced with quick and easy snacks that include grapes, bananas, applesauce, strawberries, etc. It’s rare that I see moms handing their kiddos a handful of spinach or a bag of broccoli as an after-school snack. This would be nice, but vegetables take a bit longer to prepare, the texture is different that fruit, and somewhere along the way your child decided he/she could say no to veggies and get away with it. Smart little cookie!
Although you can get plenty of vitamins, minerals and healthful antioxidants from fruit, it is important that our bodies receive the multitude of nutrients from a variety of produce. As an example, fruits and vegetables have about 25,000 plant nutrients, or phytonutrients, that perform different functions throughout the body. Different colored vegetables contain different minerals, nutrients and antioxidants and therefore it is recommended that we consume a wide variety in order to receive the benefits from the various types.
Some people choose to supplement their diets with a multi-vitamin. The challenge with this is that a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement usually contains 12 vitamins and maybe 30 to 60 trace minerals. This leaves out the thousands of additional nutrients that are inherent in fruits and vegetables. I prefer to fill the gap with a whole-food concentrate containing a variety of fruits and vegetables that has proven to get kids to eat more produce. It just goes to show that the body will crave what it needs.
The inclusion of veggies into the daily diet goes beyond their nutritional value. Eating a well-rounded diet that includes vegetables also set your kids up for an array of healthy habits, including exercise, drinking more water, moderating sugar intake, and living with a general sense of what’s good for their body.
If you’re feeling challenged, remember, you’re the parent, and what you say goes. If you’ve shied away from ‘pushing’ the veggies…then don’t push. Allow for choices. Start by reintroducing vegetables to your child with the kid-friendly ones first – i.e. cherry tomatoes, roasted sweet yams, baby carrots, edamame. If she has two vegetables that she likes, feed those to her every day. It helps if you don’t offer the fruit alongside the vegetable options. You don’t have much leverage if there are other things on the plate that will satisfy her hunger. Believe me, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat. It’s fine to offer a little salad dressing alongside (preferably a natural brand without all the preservatives and sweeteners), or to add a little cream cheese to celery, natural peanut butter to the baby carrots, or a bit of melted low-fat cheese to the cooked broccoli.
Also remember that kids don’t need to eat as much as we do. A serving size of veggies is the size of her fist. So two florets of broccoli is a great start. You can also start to add spinach to tomato sauce, as it wilts down to the point where she won’t even notice it. Adding zucchini to lasagna or shredded carrot in a hamburger…believe me, it works at our house and our boys gobble them up. Now, don’t hide veggies in their food all the time. Kids need to know that eating healthy tastes great, and they won’t know this if you’re always disguising the good stuff.
Just know that this is an option for nights when you want some peace of mind without all the drama.
If you have more questions, please feel free to e-mail me at www.juliehammerstein.com. I’m happy to help!
About our First Person series:
First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.