by Julie Snyder
As a child, you were told to "eat your fruits and vegetables." Obediently, you looked at your plate and shoved the little round green things from side to side, hoping they'd go away.
Well, times haven't changed! Even declaring September as "Fruits and Veggies -- More Matters" month hasn't changed the stats.
Studies indicate that kids still aren't eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables defend our health, protecting us from chronic diseases and provide essential nutrients.
Bursts of flavor with a blast of nutrition
Fruits and vegetables offer a healthy punch. They're:
✓ Low in calories
✓ High in vitamins, minerals and fiber
✓ Loaded with antioxidants
✓ Free of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors
✓ Versatile and easy to prepare
Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies
"Three things you can't make a kid do -- eat, sleep, or poo. So avoid the battles. The best we can do encourage and offer the foods, and when that doesn't work, disguise them in sauces or make bribes," Meg says.
Take the plunge -- make a pledge
We encourage you to try out a variety of fruits and vegetable or bring out old favorites as you strive to get your five each day. At the end of the month, look back and decide which should be a permanent part of your menu.
• One More a Day: Promise to help your family eat at least one more fruit or vegetable every day.
• Half My Plate: Promise to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables each meal.
• My School: Promise to help your child's school provide more fruit and vegetable options.
Taste it! Try it!
Each color has its own unique health components. Use the phrase "eating across the rainbow" to remind you to get as much color variety into your diet as possible. By eating fruits and vegetables, you're guaranteed a diverse amount of essential vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals.
The red spectrum includes: Strawberries, apples, watermelon, beets, red bell peppers and cherry tomatoes.
The orange section has: Apricots, clementines, peaches, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
The yellow stripe holds foods like: Bananas, pineapple, pears, wax beans, summer squash and corn.
The green segment is packed with foods like: Kiwi, grapes, honeydew melon, spinach, avocados and sugar snap peas.
The blue stripe contains: Blueberries, huckleberries, blue grapes, bue potatoes, blue corn and kohlrabi.
The purple spectrum encompasses: Plums, mulberries, black cherries, eggplant, turnips and radicchio.
White produce includes: Coconut, lychee, Asian pears, jicama, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Serve 'em up tips and ideas
It sounds like a wonderful plan, but how can you get started and keep it going? Maybe one of these suggestions will help:
✓ Mixed greens topped with blueberries or raspberries, feta, and walnuts
✓ Spinach covered with nectarine slices or strawberries, Parmesan shreds, and grilled chicken
✓ Try plain Greek yogurt mixed with Italian seasoning as a dip for veggies or add vanilla, a bit of honey and cinnamon to it as a dip for chunks of melon, grapes, and slices of peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears
✓ Spread peanut butter over a half banana and top with berry slices
✓ Wrap turkey with mustard, slices of apples or pears and dried cranberries in lettuce or a tortilla
✓ Roll ham around pineapple chunks
✓ Steam and puree veggies like yams, carrots, peeled zucchini and cauliflower and mix into pizza or pasta sauce
✓ Blend frozen fruit with yogurt or milk for a smoothie
What's your family's favorite way to eat fruits or vegetables? Do you have to hide them? Share your ideas!
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.