Five ways to five-a-day!

Carrie Smith (Msc, Nutrition Educator, Personal Trainer and Mum of 3!)

Most of us are familiar with the five-a-day message and recognise the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre. It is common knowledge that including these food groups in your diet may reduce the risk of disease and certain cancers. Research shows that the baby and toddler years provide a crucial opportunity to introduce a wide variety of foods and tastes and to successfully establish good eating habits for life. However, getting our little ones to try, taste and accept fruit and veg can be a major challenge in many households (mine included!).  Here are our top five tips on encouraging your toddlers to eat their 5-a-day:

  1.           Offer at least one portion of fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack throughout the day.  It’s easy to forget that breakfast and snack-time offer perfect opportunities to include some extra yummy and nutritious foods; add strawberries to breakfast cereal or offer an apple and cheese, or veggie sticks and dips at snack-time.  Add a couple of different veggies (including one green veg per meal) at lunch or dinner and you’ve smashed your 5-a-day!
  2.           It’s not just fresh fruit and veg that counts. Remember that fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruits and veg, pulses, beans and legumes all contribute towards your 5-a-day.  Try adding frozen veg to soups and stew or bulk out meat dishes by adding lentils or beans; both are easy, cost-effective and tasty ways to make meals go further.
  3.           If at first you don’t succeed, try again…and again…and again! Scientists tell us that it may take as many as 15 exposures to new foods before a child will accept the taste and flavour.  Most kids will reject the bitterness of broccoli on the first, sixth, tenth taste, but keep going. The key to success is to keep offering tastes in a non-pressurised and calm setting and in a variety of ways – get them handling veg in the kitchen, selecting veg in the supermarket, always include it on their plates (even if they reject it) and importantly, make sure that they see you eating it (and enjoying it) too!
  4.           Grate, mash and puree to Incorporate veg (hide!) in their foods. Grate carrot and courgette in pasta sauces, puree veggies and add to soups and add extra spinach to smoothies.  Hiding veggies in your kid’s foods is an excellent way of ensuring that they eat their nutrients. However, always offer alongside a portion of veg in its natural form so that you are continuing to expose them to their veggies.
  5.           Have fun with food! Get your toddlers involved in the kitchen. Why not get to them to create their own teddy bear pizza, make a rainbow fruit kebab or challenge them to make a funny face using a range of different foods. 

 As we know, little ones are all different and will accept new foods at different rates (or not at all in some cases).  Be patient, try lots of different foods and approaches, and above all, try and have fun with it. Good luck!

 Thanks to Carrie Smith (Msc, Nutrition Educator, Personal Trainer and Mum of 3!) for this guest post.

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