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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 6 - November/December 2012

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Eating More Vegetables!

By Dorte Bladt

Sharon is almost reduced to tears as she describes the difficulty she is having with her 3 year old. She explains;

"He used to be such a good eater; broccoli, cauliflower, star fruit, whatever we served him he ate and loved it. In the last 6 months he has become a nightmare to feed. He refuses everything other than sausages and nuggets. Every dinner I try to sweet talk him, persuade him, bribe him, and yell at him. It is so stressful; I just don't know what to do..."

I can't tell you how often I hear this scenario!

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), low fruit and vegetable consumption is among the top ten risk factors contributing to global mortality (WHO, 2011). Children's growth and development and people's health in general depend on the food we eat, with fruit and vegetables playing a major role.

Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, and enough of them, gives people a better chance of getting all the nutrients and dietary fibre they need (AIHW, 2000), and could help prevent major health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers (WHO, 2002).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report in May 2012, looking at the fruit and vegetable eating habits of Australian children and adults. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) recommend that
4-7 year olds eat 1 fruit and 2 veggies per day, 8-11 year olds eat 1 fruit, 3 veggies, 12-18 year olds should have 3 fruits and 4 vegetables and 19+ 2 and 5.

Sadly, not many of us reach that target! About 57% children aged 5-7 years eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, 32% of children aged 8-11 years, whereas only 5% of people aged 12-18 years and 6% of people 19 years and over do so.

We know that eating habits are established in childhood, and it looks like we are not very good at making healthy eating habits stick. So what to do?

Tips Clare Rowe, Child Psychologist - Sydney Morning Herald May 1, 2012

  • Don't negotiate, reason or beg your child to eat their food. Children learn quickly that parents cannot physically make them eat. Set a good parental example.
  • Don't become a 'meal coach'. Usually parents try & 'sell' their children the benefits of eating fruit & vegetables. Then they proceed with coaxing, bribing, guilt & finally threats. These strategies do not work!
    When trying to introduce a new food, don't give up; children need to be presented with a food 5 - 10 times before they will try it.
  • Stay neutral & ignore tantrums. A child will only eat chicken nuggets, hot dogs & unhealthy foods if they are available. Parents need to remember that hunger is motivating.

Some other tips that I have found helpful over the years, both for my own family, and when advising parents on trying to get kids to have a more balanced diet include:

  • Serve small, well presented portions - try not to overwhelm & when it looks that good on the plate, it will probably taste good too.
  • Serve vegetables raw, cut into interesting, easy to handle
    shapes - use the peeler to make carrot, cucumber & apple shavings, cut into the sides of carrots & shape into flowers or other interesting things.
  • Serve raw vegetables as an appetiser while dinner is cooking, when everyone is most hungry-sticks of carrots, celery, cucumber, capsicum, raw beans, snow peas or peas are easy to nibble on.
  • A whole piece of fruit can be too much to handle - cut it into bite size or invest in a slinky - cutter. String it onto tooth picks, skewers or even a string.
  • Have the fruit & vegetables already cut up in a container in the fridge ready to nibble on.
  • Have the fruit & vegetables already cut up in a small take-away Tupperware or sealed bag to put in the school or sports bag.
  • Enjoy the art of creating a lovely meal together as a family - let the child help prepare the food - under proper supervision - cutting, washing, peeling & cooking.
  • Make collages & creatures of the fruit & vegetables, dress the plate as a smiley face, use tooth picks &
    skewers to make a man or an animal.
  • Have delicious & healthy dips such as hummus to dip the vegetable sticks into.
  • Have fun together growing vegetables in your garden or in pots, tomatoes, peas, carrots, snow peas, beans, lettuce, beetroot - nothing tastes as good as freshly picked, home grown vegetables.
  • Make a soup, vegetables taste delicious in a broth.
  • Make juice - you can hide vegetables in the apple & orange juice.
  • Puree zucchini, carrots, pumpkin &
    put it in everything you make- bolognaise, meat patties, mashed potatoes, muffins & cakes.
  • Have family dinners together every night - families who eat together, stay together.
  • Enjoy a variety of fruit & vegetables yourself - children do as we do, not as we say, so make a fuss of how wonderful it all tastes.
  • Shop with your kids - let them choose which fruit & vegetables they prefer this week
  • Make up cute names for the vegetables - snow trees for cauliflower, superman food for spinach
  • Encourage children to take 1 bite of each before they say 'no thank you'

About Dorte Bladt

Dorte specialises in posture and spinal health. She checks your spine to assess if the bones, muscles or ligaments are working properly and will gently, safely and naturally correct it to allow the body and the nervous system to function better. Dorte also provides advice on which exercises would be beneficial as well as which position to sleep, stand and sit in for the best possible posture.

More Information

Dorte Bladt
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842


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