More Fruits and Veggies, Please!

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As a dietitian and a mom of three young children, I naturally have a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. You may think that this has always been the case. The truth is that it wasn't. The practice of having fresh fruit sitting out didn't occur to me until I had a friend from out of town visit me. This was during the time when I only had one young child and was studying nutrition. The light bulb went off. I realized fruit wasn't a big part of our diet. I concentrated on vegetables and whole grains because ironically, I am allergic to many fruits.

Of course placing a bowl of apples, pears, and bananas in a colorful bowl from Crate and Barrel isn't enough. True to what I have learned about children's eating habits, slicing fruit and placing it at an easy-to-reach location right after school does the trick. Serving dips like ranch dressing or peanut butter with carrots for dinner also works. This holds true for adults too. Imagine being served fresh slices of peaches and plums right before the end of dinner. Sounds yummy doesn't it? That's right, you'll actually eat it vs. just staring at a lonely whole peach sitting in front of you. Please, try this experiment at home!

Lonely fruit and vegetables seems to be a national phenomenon. According to the USDA, fewer than 15 percent of elementary students eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Furthermore, average fruit and vegetable intake among 6-11 year olds is only 3.5 servings a day.

Does low fruit and vegetable intake really matter when children are young? Chronic illness such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer are usually concerns for adults. However, life-long positive eating habits (such as eating low fat foods, consuming foods with high fiber, eating less processed foods) are habit-forming when started young. Furthermore, certain diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol are starting to appear in children who are overweight. Finally, fruits and vegetables have so many naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that are good for your health.