Getting your kids to eat 5 a day

Ensuring your child gets their 5 a day may require some ingenuity and it can be more tricky if you suddenly find you are the one responsible for this, when you are just learning to cook.

What if your child hates vegetables?How much is a kids portion?

Tips for getting your kids to eat vegetables

  • It is good to try to get all the family around the table to eat as often as possible. The youngsters especially, will learn table manners and good eating habits by sharing their meal with adults. Children like to copy and if we are eating an assortment of fruit and vegetables, they are more likely to get their 5 a day as well.
  • Encourage your children to try new foods, by taking care with the presentation. You don't need to go to the extremes of making funny faces with different ingredients (unless you want to) but by ensuring the plate contains an assortment of colors and textures it will look more attractive.
child choosing her 5 a day
  • Vegetables are the key items here. With their bright colors and varied shapes they can make the meal more appetizing.
  • Of course including vegetables in a meal has greater benefits than just making it look attractive. They provide an important source of nutrition. In fact, including different colored vegetables, will help to ensure a range of vitamins and other nutrients are present in the child's food.
  • If your children are still young, then now is an ideal time to start introducing new foods. Even babies will enjoy fresh, pureed fruit and vegetables and offering a wide variety can help to avoid fussiness later on. Food preferences learned in their early years are more likely to stick with them through to adulthood.
  • Once they reach the teething stage, sticks of raw vegetables, such as carrots or cucumber will give them something healthy to chew on and help to develop a taste for veggies.
  • Don't give up! Most toddlers go through phases where they say "no" to certain vegetables. This is normal. It doesn't mean they will always dislike them.

But what if your child hates vegetables?

If even the smallest serving on their plate, however colorful, is going to meet with resistance, you might need to resort to the following tactics.

  • Disguise them! There are many ways to add veggies to a meal without making them obvious. If you are serving a sauce with the dish, why not throw in some veggies and blend the sauce in your Vita-mix, or food processor, until smooth? (You could do the same thing with pulses, such as lentils or beans to add a little extra protein as well.)
  • Make a fun colored drink to serve with the meal, by juicing fruit or vegetables. You could even come up with an exciting name for the drink!
  • Raw veggies, served with a dip, are often popular. Spoon some dip into their own bowl, and let them pick their own veggies from serving dishes in the middle of the table.
  • Create a food chart and give them a different colored star for each different colored vegetable they eat each day.
  • Make some homemade vegetable soup, and liquidize it so that no chunks of vegetables are to be seen. Serve a bowl as a starter, before the main meal.
fruit and fruit juice provide some of your 5 a day

Remember, however, that kids are not going to learn what foods are good for them, if their 5 a day are always hidden!

Letting them help with the cooking will make them aware of what ingredients you are using. If they grow accustomed to seeing fresh vegetables in the kitchen they will become more familiar with them. It is often the unfamiliar foods that kids refuse to even try.

How much is a kids portion?

So we know that we should all be eating five a day, but how much food is that exactly? A child's portion size is smaller than an adults. A good rule is to say one portion is the amount that a child can hold in one hand. As they grew, the portion will grow proportionally.

Some fruit and vegetables don't count in the five servings. These include potatoes, fruit yoghurts, jams or jellies, fruit flavored drinks and tomato sauces such as ketchup. These are to be discounted because they either contain too much starch or sugar, or because they do not provide enough real nutrients.

banana a child sized portion of his 5 a day

It is perhaps easier to work out a portion of fruit, as many of them come pre-packed by Mother Nature. A small apple, orange or banana for example is 1 serving. For dried fruits, such as currants or raisins, we are talking of 1 heaped tablespoon per portion. For other fruit, such as melon, pineapple or papaya, a slice is the measure we need. 

Moving onto vegetables, a good suggestion for a serving is about 2-4 tablespoons, or a child's handful.

Keep in mind that if your child enjoys fresh fruit or vegetable juice, drinks or smoothies that will also count as one of their five a day. But sorry, having five glasses doesn't count as 5 a day, just one!

Lastly just think how boring it would be for us to eat the same food every day. Offer many different types of fruit and vegetables, so that if your child really doesn't like one or two, there are still plenty you can include in their meals.

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