National Nutrition Week this 16-22 October encourages all Australians to eat the recommended daily intake of 5 servings of vegetables.
As a parent, you know better than anyone that it’s not always easy to encourage your children to eat fruits and vegetables.
Whether they’re fussy eaters or simply refuse to eat altogether, kids can be stubborn at the best of times when it comes to food.
Why “Try for 5”?
According to Nutrition Australia, only 7% of Australians eat the recommended 5 serves of vegetables a day.
Yet Australian Dietary guidelines recommend you eat 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day.
Following this recommendation helps to ensure you get all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best.
You’re more likely to sleep better, have more energy, maintain a healthy weight, fight off illness (and recover quicker) and feel happier and healthier in general when you eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables.
How big is one serving size?
Many of us get confused and even overwhelmed by the idea of a serving size. Eating 5 servings a day doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat 5 whole vegetables and 2 whole fruits every day.
Generally, serving sizes are measured in grams – with one serving of vegetables equalling 75 grams. However, when vegetables are cooked they lose some of their nutritional value – so you need slightly more of them – around half a cup (110 grams).
It’s also important to know that not every vegetable is the same mass when cooked.
Here are some examples of serving sizes:
- Half a cup of cooked green or orange vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, carrot, pumpkin)
- Half a cup of cooked, dried or canned legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- One cup of leafy greens or salad mix
- Half a cup of sweet corn
- Half a medium-sized potato or sweet potato
- One apple, banana, orange, pear, mandarin
- Two kiwi fruit, apricots, plums
The Australian government’s Eat For Health website offers helpful advice on portion sizes and meal planning for adults and children.
What if my child refuses to eat healthily?
It’s important to persevere and be consistent when it comes to healthy eating plans for your children – here are some tips to help:
- Blend – get started by combining fruits and even vegetables (avocado, cucumber) into juices and smoothies
- Disguise – chop up carrot, celery and zucchini into tiny pieces and combine in a Bolognese sauce or casserole
- Combine – combine sweet potato with potato for a healthier mash, and mix cauliflower in rice
- Decorate – create silly faces and animals made out of fruit and vegetable pieces to entertain your kids
- Variety is key – try and mix up the fruits and vegetables you serve, and vary the colours – aim for a rainbow-filled plate
- Reduce the stigma – explain why your children need to eat fruits and vegetables, and encourage them to care about their health
- Change your thinking – children follow your lead, so when you adopt a positive attitude about healthy eating they’re much more likely to respond positively as well