Fruits and Vegetables for Children


Why eat fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables add color, texture and flavor to the plate. The pleasure of the senses is also an excellent reason to eat it. To increase a child’s consumption of fruits and vegetables, it is more effective to talk to them about the pleasure of eating them than about their good nutritional value.

Of course, fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients. Among these are mainly dietary fiber, vitamins (A, C, B2, B6, K, folic acid, etc.), minerals (potassium, iron , magnesium, calcium , copper, etc.) and several compounds antioxidants. These nutrients contribute to the health of the child by helping, among other things, to promote the proper functioning of his immune system, to form and maintain new cells, to make his muscles and nerves work, to strengthen his bones and muscles. teeth, to allow the transmission of information between his brain and his body (nerve impulses) and to ensure intestinal regularity.

Indeed, fruits and vegetables, thanks to their fibers and their volume, promote intestinal regularity. They also provide the privileged food of the precious bacteria that inhabit the intestine ( microbiota ). In addition, the consumption of fruits and vegetables throughout life helps prevent cardiovascular disease, hypertension and several types of cancer.

Consequences of a diet poor in fruits and vegetables

Conversely, eating very few fruits and vegetables, if at all, can lead to health problems. The first is constipation and bloating. A child who is lacking in fruits and vegetables or who always eats the same ones could also lack certain vitamins and minerals. The fatigue, weakened immune system (and colds that follow) are the possible consequences.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), low consumption of fruits and vegetables among the 10 main mortality risk factors, as well as lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol. The WHO adds that a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables also increases the risk of obesity , cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Are there fruits or vegetables to favor?

There is no one fruit or vegetable better than the others. Rather, it is the variety that should be sought. Varying the colors is the best way to guarantee a good variety.

So make sure you have at least two or three different colors of fruit and two or three different colors of vegetables on the menu each week. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables. At lunch and dinner, vegetables should make up a third of your child’s plate . Also include fruit at lunch and regularly for dessert. Offer at least one vegetable or fruit snack each day.

As soon as your child has mastered chewing sufficiently (around 18 to 24 months), you can offer him fruits, potatoes and sweet potatoes with their peel , since the latter contains the majority of dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. . However, the skin presents a risk of suffocation in the little ones. It is then necessary to remove it or grate the food with its peel.

To prevent choking

Most children prefer raw vegetables. Before 4 years, however, you must be careful with vegetables that present a risk of suffocation. Here are some tips .

  • Tender vegetables, such as cucumber (without the peel), mushrooms, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes, can be offered raw, in thin slices or in strips to a child from around 18 months.
  • Hard vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, broccoli and turnips, however, should be cooked for a few minutes (blanched) and sliced ​​before serving to a toddler.
  • Leafy vegetables, like lettuce, spinach and kale, should be chopped up and incorporated into recipes to cook for up to 4 years.
  • For at least 2 years, hard fruits, such as apples, plums, and peaches, should be served raw, grated, or peeled and thinly sliced ​​or cooked, as they present a choking hazard. However, soft or very ripe fruits, which can easily crush between the tongue and the palate, can be offered peeled and sliced ​​as early as 6 months if the child is fed according to the principles of independent feeding .
  • Grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes should be cut into quarters or halves lengthwise for up to 4 years.
  • The white membrane of oranges, clementines and other citrus fruits should be removed for up to 24 months.

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables intended for frozen or canned are picked when fully ripe. Their freshness and nutritional value are therefore at their maximum.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are great alternatives to fresh produce. Since fruits and vegetables are quickly frozen after being peeled, washed and blanched, their shape and nutrient content remains the same as when fresh.

For their part, canned fruits and vegetables are cooked before being canned, which reduces their nutritional value. This is because some of the heat-sensitive vitamins are destroyed and a certain quantity of minerals is lost in the water or syrup contained in canned food. Despite this nutrient loss, it is better to consume canned fruits and vegetables than not to eat them at all. However, make sure to rinse them well before eating them to eliminate as much salt and added sugar as possible .

Dried fruits

A child under the age of 4 should not eat dried fruit, as it may have difficulty chewing it well. He then risks choking. Even after this age, it is important to watch a child who eats dried fruit.

On the other hand, a toddler under the age of 4 can eat dried fruit without any problem when they are added to a recipe (eg : raisins in a muffin recipe). Their texture thus becomes softer, because they are partly rehydrated. The same goes for dried fruit mashed or chopped in a recipe. 

Since they are much sweeter than fresh fruit and sticky to the teeth, dried fruit promotes the growth of bacteria that cause cavities . It is therefore not advisable to serve them as a snack for children. However, accompanying dried fruit with a cube of cheese or offering them during a meal reduces the risk of cavities.

Peanut and tree nut
allergies Children with allergy to peanuts and tree nuts should avoid consuming dried fruit. Since the factories in which the dried fruits are processed also often produce peanuts and tree nuts, these fruits may have come into contact with these allergens.



How do you get him to eat more fruits and vegetables?

Your child learns to eat and love the foods he often sees on the menu.

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables with pleasure. If your little one sees you eating these foods, he or she will tend to imitate you.
  • Point out to your child how fruits and vegetables add beautiful colors to their plate. Let him touch and smell these foods so that he becomes familiar with them.
  • Vary the fruits and vegetables you offer your child. At mealtime, put two different vegetables on your plates. This increases the chances that your child will enjoy one. However, add a small amount to avoid discouraging him.
  • Serve the vegetables as a starter or before dinner as raw vegetables (grated or in pieces, depending on the variety of vegetables and your child’s age). Since your toddler is often very hungry around this time, he may be eating more vegetables.
  • Make soups and smoothies . However, tell your little one what’s in your recipe to avoid secrecy.
  • Place a bowl of dip next to a plate of raw vegetables. It is a good way to get your child to eat vegetables. Dips made with yogurt, cream cheese, tofu and legumes are best because they are nutritious.
  • Take your child to the grocery store and invite them to choose a fruit or vegetable they want to eat during the week.
  • Cook with your child to learn about vegetables and fruits. Let them taste it during the preparation; it will always be eaten! In addition, when cooking, he is proud and is more inclined to taste.
  • Avoid hiding vegetables or fruits that your child doesn’t like in a recipe. This strategy does not allow him to develop his taste for vegetables or fruits that he does not like. To find out more, see our Food Camouflage fact sheet .
  • Do not force your child to eat or taste any fruit or vegetable on their plate. However, you can encourage and praise him when he tastes it. For example, you can say to him, “ Do you want to play the adventurer of taste? It’s about taking a small bite to find out what it tastes like. I do it with you! “Or” Well done! You tasted a food you weren’t sure you liked. “
Fruit and vegetable
juices Fruit juices should be consumed in moderation, as they contain a lot of sugar and have little nutritional value. Drinking juice is not the same as eating fruit, even though it is 100 % pure juice . Likewise, vegetable juices are much less interesting than whole vegetables. They are little satiating and have lost nutrients. Better not to drink too much and especially not to use them too often to replace other vegetables. To learn more, visit our plug the drinks .

Tips for putting fruits and vegetables on the menu

  • Distribute fruits and vegetables throughout the day, for example : one fruit for breakfast, one vegetable for lunch, one fruit for snack and two vegetables for dinner.
  • Prepare some vegetables ahead of time. When coming home from grocery shopping or preparing a meal, for example, wash and cut vegetables for two or three meals. The fact that they are ready sometimes makes all the difference between eating them or not eating them.
  • Double your vegetable soup or soup recipes when you prepare them. They can be kept for a few months in the freezer, and will help you out.
  • Add vegetables directly to pasta water when cooking. Eating vegetables doesn’t have to mean more dishes.
  • Add vegetables to your stews and pasta recipes. No need for it to be written in the recipe to put it.
  • Use frozen vegetables that are just waiting to be reheated.
  • Try pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables sold in grocery stores. They are a little more expensive, but they are often wasted less.

When to consult?

Most children will learn to like at least a few vegetables, possibly raw, within a few weeks. If not, consult a nutritionist to assess the situation and try to improve it.

Taking a vitamin and mineral supplement may be needed temporarily when the child is eating little or no vegetables and fruit. The goal is not to replace these foods permanently, but to avoid deficiencies while waiting for them to eat them.

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