The Nutrition Rainbow
The rainbow connection… of nutrition
We know there’s a lot to consider when it comes to feeding our kids. Arguably, the most important factor is whether they’ll actually eat what we put in front of them. Pediatrician Dr. Edisa Padder is making another Parents’ Corner house call, talking about how vibrant our plates should be.
The argument is a sound one that we hear all of the time on cooking competition shows: we first eat with our eyes. Dr. Padder says our kids do too.
“Kids love colors and encouraging them to eat variety like a rainbow a day can be motivating,” Dr. Padder said. “If parents understand that fruits and veggies are usually better sources of vitamins and minerals than a supplement, they will be more motivated to eat fruits and veggies to stay healthy.”
Dr. Padder says color is a good indicator of which vitamins we’re getting with any given meal. For instance, iron-rich foods tend to be red. That includes options like raspberries, strawberries, beets and red grapes. Green foods generally contain lots of vitamin C.
Ways to sneak in the healthy stuff
Some of our pickier eaters might not get excited about the prospect of a rainbow on their plate. There are a number of ways adults can “sneak” fruits and vegetables (and all of the important nutrients they provide) into our kids’ diet.
- Blend it up! – Dr. Padder suggests smoothies, even for kids who have difficulty with some textures. Oh, and it has to actually taste good. “I have learned that if you keep a good ratio of sweet fruits like mango and pineapple along with berries and spinach, you can get a quick, healthy and tasty smoothie in minutes, no sugar needed,” Dr. Padder said.
- Get everyone involved – In Dr. Padder’s experience, children who help choose and prepare meals are more likely to try something new. “When shopping, I sometimes let my kids choose a new fruit or vegetable that we never tried before,” Dr. Padder said. “Since my kids have been part of the team of tasters, they’re more willing to try new foods and offer their feedback.”
- Dip it – When it comes to getting children to eat their veggies, Dr. Padder says don’t be afraid of a dip. Instead of chips, sub in carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Dr. Padder’s kids love this recipe for rainbow ranch dip.
- Hide it in a sauce – Purees are a great way to disguise greens and incorporate them into other dishes. “If you are making a curry dish or spaghetti sauce, you can add a few tablespoons of pureed spinach and broccoli and ‘hide’ it into the sauce,” Dr. Padder said.
- Make foods more familiar – Dr. Padder mentions this one specifically for kids who are put off by certain textures. “For example, if your kid will not eat butternut squash, try adding some sprinkles or drizzle some honey on it,” Dr. Padder said.
Moderating and normalizing appropriate portions
Portion control is a tough one, especially this time of year when the idea of indulging is celebrated more than usual.
Dr. Padder has two simple rules when it comes to teaching our families about portion control:
- Serve food on smaller plates – “Portion sizes in our country have really been ‘supersized’ and we need to work hard to bring ‘normal’ portion sizes into the mainstream expectations,” Dr. Padder said. Dr. Padder suggests avoiding letting kids eat right out of the bag and helping them visualize a well-balanced plate that’s made up of ¼ grains, ¼ protein, ¼ fruit and ¼ vegetables.
- Simplify portion size – Dr. Padder recommends making the portion sizes relatable to kids, not something that requires measuring cups or a scale. For example, a closed fist is about a cup of cereal or pasta and one serving of meat or protein should be about the size of your child’s palm.
Top five foods to get into your kid’s diet
While it’s hard to choose, Dr. Padder says her top five picks to incorporate into your child’s diet are:
- Broccoli – source of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as iron and calcium
- Strawberries – high in vitamin C
- Apples – solid source of magnesium and pectin
- Avocado – all sorts of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals
- Eggs – great source of protein
Dr. Padder shared more advice on how to avoid dreaded sugar crashes on our Parents’ Corner blog (click here for that article).
For more tips, check out the CA Parents’ Corner blog.
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