At least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day are good for us. Yet encouraging children to get into the habit of healthy eating when there are so many other temptations around is hard. Research suggests that a balanced diet that includes a lot of fruit and vegetables will help children stay more alert at school and be less likely to develop behavioural problems or sleep disorders. Yet many children simply won’t eat what’s considered ‘good for them’, while some are fussy, and may only eat one or two types of fruit.
Children are increasingly growing up on a diet that largely consists of junk food. Regular amounts of junk food in the diet contribute to a number of health problems in children, including:
- Tiredness, lack of enthusiasm and a lack of energy
- Unwillingness to take part in any physical activity
- Mood swings, irritability and restlessness
- Fidgety behaviour, inability to sleep
- Unpredictable behaviour
- Constipation or stomach upsets
- Weight problems
- Pale skin, dull hair, weak, brittle nails, dark shadows under eyes
- Nausea, headaches
- Frequent colds and infections
- Increased incidence of allergies
- Poor concentration
Ways to Encourage Them to Eat Fruit
There are several things you can do to encourage your children to eat more healthily. Children love sweet food, and fruit is a great source of natural sugars.
To encourage your children to eat more fruit, they need to see you enjoying it as part of a healthy diet. Make family mealtimes part of your daily routine and serve up a healthy variety of foods, including fruit. Add dried fruit, such as raisins and figs to their breakfast cereal, and treat them to a fruity pudding after their evening meal. Add a banana or apple, or dried fruit such as mango to their school lunch boxes, or let them snack on grapes or berries.
The following are some ideas on how to help your children enjoy fruit:
- Make fruit kebabs – thread strawberries and chunks of melon and kiwi fruit onto a skewer and drizzle with chocolate. Why not get your children to help you make it?
- Freeze fruit – this can concentrate the fruit flavour and offer an alternative taste and texture. Try freezing strawberries and bananas and serving them on sticks like a lolly pop
- Make a smoothie – few can resist the delicious taste of a fresh smoothie. Pack it with blueberries, mango, raspberries and bananas and get them to try and identify the ingredients
- Cook fruit with them – make jams, jellies and delicious fruit pies with your children. Let them taste the fruit at every stage of the cooking process
- Give them dried mango or apple pieces as a snack
If your children are unused to healthy eating, encouraging your children to eat fruit won’t be easy. You may have to take several knock-backs before they finally agree to try something, but persistence is the key to success. Don’t abolish the junk altogether – let them know both fruit and junk (in moderation) can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. And don’t force them to eat fruit. This will only put them off eating it in later life. Just remember that even once piece of fresh fruit a day can help make a difference.