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Want Your Kids to Eat More Veg & Fruit? Try Smiling!

A while back, I shared some tips for encouraging children to eat healthy foods. Now there’s one more tip to add, courtesy of a new study, published in the journal Obesity: Smile while eating something you want your kids to eat.

Photos of people happily eating a child’s favorite food made them want it even more, while a photo of a person looking “disgusted” by that same food tended to make the children want it less. If a child disliked a certain food, seeing someone with a pleasant expression eating it made the child more open to trying that food.

These results build on a study published in late 2008 in Preventive Medicine suggesting that parents can increase the amount of fruits and vegetables their children eat simply by eating more themselves. For every extra serving of fruit or vegetable eaten by a parent, their child ate an extra half serving.

“We have always known that parents have a tremendous influence on what their children eat,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH). “These two studies demonstrate that this influence extends from simply making fruits and vegetables available for their children, to modeling their own enjoyment of eating a healthy diet.”

Pivonka says that parents can shape their children’s eating habits and help them develop a healthy attitude toward food. “But, be careful not to send mixed signals. Don’t be the mom who insists that her kids eat breakfast and then skips the meal herself or the dad who tells his kids to eat all their vegetables and then won’t eat them himself.”

Some other pointers for modeling positive behavior from the PBH Foundation:

  • Show kids how enjoyable healthy foods can be with comments like “Wow, that tastes good!” or “Look how colorful!”
  • Be a good role model. Eat the way you want your child to eat. Choose a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups, eat in moderation and make exercise part of your regular routine.
  • Don’t ban foods. Kids will encounter cookies, chips and other treats when they’re away from home. Allow them to explore, but at the same time teach them what their bodies need. The goal is to enjoy a varied healthy diet, which allows for occasional indulgences.
  • Get kids in the kitchen. From an early age, involve children in preparing food. Children love being involved; they love feeling like they’re helping. If they feel they’re part of the process, they’re more likely to try the finished product.

For more tips on getting more fresh produce into your diet, do check out the PBH’s Fruits & Veggies – More Matters site. You’ll find a ton of excellent information there, including a database of over 1,000 recipes, many of which can be made in 30 minutes or less, videos about fruit and vegetable selection, storage and preparation, and tips for eating healthy on a budget.

Images by Mr. Wright and Bruce Tuten, via Flickr

Media materials from PBH were used in this article.

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Get More Fruit & Veg into Your Diet


Good dental health is part of good bodily health, and that depends on eating well. More, nutritional guidance and support is essential for proper detox and healing when it comes to dealing with dental conditions such as mercury toxicity, root canal infections and cavitations. Consequently, nutrition has always been a key part of our practice.

Sadly, many Americans are notoriously unhealthy eaters, which is one of the reasons why so many are so unhealthy. The standard American diet is loaded with sugars and highly processed carbs, often in combination with too much unhealthy fat. Such foods have been consistently shown to contribute to chronic diseases, many of them inflammatory in nature. Conventional medicine has been of little help, even as evidence continues to mount that eating well is one of the best things you can do to support good health. (A recent article in the New York Times laments the problem of physicians still receiving relatively little training in nutrition.)

One thing that sometimes gets lost in discussions about how we eat is the fact that the problem isn’t just that we eat foods that are unhealthy for us but that these foods take the place of better ones. We eat too many “bad” foods and not enough “good.” This is especially so with fruits and vegetables. According to data recently released by the CDC, less than 1/3 of Americans eat fruit at least twice a day or vegetables at least three times a day. Even then, we tend to eat from a very limited range. The most popular choices? Orange juice and potatoes.

Clearly, we need to do better – incorporating a broad range of produce into our daily diets and eating more of them. But how? Know Thy Health offers seven tips for getting more produce into your diet:

  1. Include a green garden salad with both lunch and dinner.

  2. Include a piece of fresh fruit with your breakfast each morning. And if you choose to have desserts with other meals, choose fruit.

  3. Consider your plate. Let any meat, starch and grain (potato, pasta, bread, rice or other cooked grains) fill no more than 1/3 of your plate. Let the rest be vegetables.

  4. Keep quick and easy snacks on hand by cutting up carrots, celery, jicima and other firm vegetables in advance. Store them in a bit of water in a container in the fridge.

  5. When you eat out, ask for more veg with your entree in lieu of potatoes, rice, pasta or other starch.

  6. Choose to have a vegetarian or vegan meal at least one night a week. Need recipe ideas? VegCooking.com is a great starting point. For global cuisine vegan recipes, visit the International Vegetarian Union.

  7. Widen your palate – and meal possibilities – by making a point to try out at least one new vegetable and fruit each time you go shopping. If you shop farmer’s markets, the growers may be able to give you some good ideas on how to use the food. Otherwise – or additionally – you can find tons of great recipes on sites like allrecipes.com and Recipezaar, which let you search by ingredient.

What are some of the things you do to make sure you eat enough fruit and veg in your diet? Let us know in the comments.


Update: Not long after we published this, the Consumer Reports Health Blog ran its piece on how to get more produce into your diet, which includes more great tips. Check it out.


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