The secret may be serving fruits and vegetables at dinner and actually sitting down for a family meal. A new study from England’s University of Leeds found that youngsters who eat with their parents take in 1.6 more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids from families that don’t dine together. Another helpful strategy: cutting up fruits and veggies for your kids and making sure that they see you eating fruits and vegetables, too, the researchers reported online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The goal is for everyone – kids and parents – to eat five 80-gram servings of fruits and vegetables daily as recommended by the World Health Organization. The study included 2,383 London primary school children (mean age 8.3 years). The investigators reported that on average, the kids and their parents ate 293 grams of fruits and vegetables daily (3.7 servings); only 37 percent of the kids took in the recommended five servings per day. Children whose parents ate fruits and vegetables daily consumed 88 grams (just over 3 ounces) more of these foods than those whose parents rarely or never ate fruits and vegetables.
My take? If you want your kids to develop healthy eating habits, you have to make healthy foods available and show them how it’s done. If your children are resistant to the idea of fruits and vegetables, you might try introducing them to fruits by making them smoothies, which are usually very well received. My book, The Healthy Kitchen, which I wrote with Rosie Daley, contains several smoothie recipes, as well as instructions for preparing delicious soups that incorporate lots of vegetables. Perhaps the most important point of the study, however, is simply to lead by example.
Christian M, et al "Family meals can help children reach their 5 a day: a cross-sectional survey of children's dietary intake from London primary schools" J Epidemiol Community Health 2012; DOI: 10.1136/jech-2012-201604.