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My Family’s Fruits & Veggies “Challenge”

I always thought I ate healthy.  I eat my veggies, stay away from high fat and cholesterol foods and limit my intake of meat products so you can imagine how surprised I was at discovering that I was still falling short (on most days) of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  What was even more concerning to me was that, while I cooked healthy meals for my family, I wasn’t as stringent about their diets as my own.  If I was falling short what was going on with them?!  It was time to revamp our diets and work in a few additional servings of fruits and veggies.

For me it simply meant changing a few of my routines.  I substituted a glass of 100% juice for one of my morning cups of coffee.  My mid-morning energy bar became a piece of fruit and a low fat string cheese.  For lunch pretzels or crackers became a tangerine.  These were all easy changes to make and I was now hitting my daily requirement, but I needed to figure out a way to engage my kids.

As any mom of teenagers can tell you, getting them motivated about anything that doesn’t involve a computer, iPod or cell phone is next to impossible.  I’ve always used dinnertime as our family time when we have family discussions so I decided to use this venue as my opportunity to discuss our produce "problem."  We all went through naming what we had eaten that day and, as suspected, both kids were below the recommended amount of fruits and veggies.  I figured my best chance at getting them engaged was to start a little competition.  I promised I’d make the produce available and make sure they get at least two or more servings at dinner, but it was up to them to add more servings to their diets the rest of the day.

Over the next few weeks we’d check with one another at dinner to see who was on target or who was still lacking.  If they hadn’t fulfilled their daily quota they would have a piece of fruit as their dessert instead of a cookie or ice cream.  I was pleasantly surprised to see them proactively going for a banana at breakfast or asking me to add a favorite fruit to my grocery list.  On most evenings we were all at or close to our recommended amount.

While the challenge strategy worked for me, I think what’s even more important is to TALK about healthy eating with your children.  I made it a topic of conversation in our house and continued to follow up with them each night.  Our healthy meal planning can help you get started with menu ideas and a description of what counts as a serving.  Don’t forget that it ALL counts–fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice!  While I’ve eased up on the nightly checks I know it’s still working–recently at a restaurant the waitress asked my son which sides he’d like with his entree.  Six months ago it would have been French fries.  His response: "I’d like the vegetable of the day, please." 

Miracles do happen. 

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  1. Great post! We also eat pretty healthy in our house, but it’s always important to point out good choices to kids and keep up our own awareness of how many fruits and veggies we are actually serving. Some things I do to increase fruits and veggies are 1. serve two veggies at dinner, 2. cook Chinese style where the veggies out number the meat at least 2:1, and 3. to serve fruit for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dessert!

  2. Your post really encouraged me to think creatively about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our meals. My son’s lunch now includes freshly-squeezed orange juice (which he not only loves to drink but also gets a big kick out of watching me juice the orange on an old-fashioned juicer)!

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