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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I increase the fruit and vegetables in my childrens' diet?

    My 2 children are considered obese. I know they should eat more fruits and vegetables but they refuse to try anything new. How can i get them to eat a more balanced diet?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Priya Iyer


    With over 16+ years experience in the field of nutrition & dietetics, Priya specialises in rehabilitation (covering neurology, burns, aged care & disability) and has … View Profile

    Fruits & vegetables can be incorporated into your everyday meal with ease in various forms & ways. It not only adds colour, texture & variety to the child's meal, it comes with all the goodness of vitamins, minerals, fibre & antioxidants. As a parent, it pays to be innovative & resourceful to include colours in every meal & snack of the day. You can have them fresh & raw, cooked/steamed, baked & as soups & smoothies. Here are a few tips to add some colour & goodness to your children's meals.Try lettuce/cucumber/grated carrots/tomatoes/beetroot etc along with your choice of protein (meat/fish/cheese/tofu etc) as a colorful filling on the sandwich or wrap. Snack time - well, you could serve vegetable sticks (carrots/cucumber/celery/asparagus etc) with a low fat cheese dip, hummus dip or a vegetable chutney of your choice. Vegetable soups are great on not-so-warm days & you can pack it with darker & brighter coloured vegetables. Mixed fruit & vegetable platter is a healthy entree whilst entertaining kids/adults. With warmer weather in the horizon, fruits can be consumed as frozen fruits, smoothies (with dairy to get the much needed calcium for stronger bones & teeth), fruit salad with custard, fruit yoghurt & fruit slushies etc. Top your breakfast cereal with seasonal fruits and/or strawberries, bananas, pear, berry mix etc. You could even alternate breakfast choices with a fruit loaf or raisin toast to get extra dried fruits. Baking - make it interesting by baking a variety from mixed berry muffins to vegetable scones. Remember, always include your child/children in cooking & preparation - you can make it interesting by cutting fruits & vegetables to make cool designs - smiley face, flowers, animal faces etc.Check out this fact sheet for interesting ideas & click on the link on the fact sheet for more recipe ideas to incrporate fruits & vegetables into your children's diet.
    Happy eating!

  • With over 25 years experience in clinical nutrition and dietetics I can help you achieve your health goals. I practice a client centered approach-I will … View Profile

    Again by mirroring, children learn by example so by eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables as a parent or a carer is one of the best ways of setting a good example. There are certainly other tips like allowing the children to be involved in the choices. Take them to the markets. Let them choose the food. Take them shopping with you.

    Let them see and smell the food, and make a choice. Perhaps even trying to introduce one new food each week where they can go along and decide which food it's going to be and have some choice in the preparation and the serving of that food.

    Also simple things like having a veggie garden, where the child can grow their own veggies certainly encourages consumption, and involving them in the cooking and the preparation of food will increase their variety. Also we know that serving from a platter, of self-serve situation, where parents again are choosing those foods tend to encourage the children to make better choices in encouraging them to increase their fruit and veggies.

    Lots of parents like to hide veggies and things, for example carrots and zucchini IN SPAGHETTI SAUCE, and that absolutely fine. It’s a great way of getting vegetables into a child who refuses to eat them. But really in the long-term, we need to look at introducing these foods and having the child accept them as part of their diet.

    It’s a long, slow process and can be very frustrating at times but extremely rewarding once the child does enhance their variety. Let me also say, if a child is looking robust and healthy, and if they’re full of energy and they’re growing, IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THEY ARE MALNOURISHED.VERY FEW AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN NO MATTER HOW POOR THEIR DIET MAY APPEAR WILL SUFFER MALNUTRITION

    Many parents start to panic that their children are eating a poor diet, whereas an actual fact is they're growing, thriving, and they're having some fruits and veggies, the concern isn't really as great as the parents often imagine. CHILDREN OFTEN GRAZE AND SNACK AND IT IS THESE SNACKS OFTEN CONTRIBUTE GREATLY TO MEETING NEEDS.

  • Mel Haynes


    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. View Profile

    The first way to do that is to make sure that if children are wanting to snack between meals that the things that they're reaching for are fruits and vegetables. Things like flavored drinks or chips, or biscuits or crackers, they're really not a great choice for children. Children have high vitamin and mineral needs. They also have reasonably high energy needs for how small they are.

    But you need to make sure that the things that are most available to them are fruits and vegetables and they're getting a good range. The other way is to have a vegetable soup for an entree before meals. This might sound like a bit of a hassle for some people, but to make a big batch of soup, and then keep some in the freezer to have warmed up. That's a good way to make sure that they're getting, at least an extra couple veggies that they're not having them crowding all over their plate.

    It's very difficult for children to meet their vegetable requirements if they are only having vegetables in their main course. So, trying to get them to eat them as a snack like carrot sticks or celery sticks, even with peanut butter or with cheese if that's what you need to get them to eat them. Including fruits and vegetables in their lunch box as well, and their other meals too.

  • Aidan Ma

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    This is a very good question and it is something a lot of parents ask me. I think it is important to look at this in a holistic way. There are a number of ways that have been proven to be effective.

    One of them is to eat together as a family and to make mealtimes relaxed and positive occasions. Children tend to learn from their family members, so it is important to be a good role model. I would highly encourage the parent to eat all different types of foods, especially the fruit and the vegetable that you mentioned, even trying to include them in a wide variety of textures and different colours, as well. The second approach that I would also encourage is to offer as many foods on a daily basis, as you can.

    There are 5 main food groups. These are the carbohydrates, which are your bread, rice, potatoes, starchy-based products and pastas. Fruit and vegetables. Dairy products like cheese, milk and yoghurt. Your protein; meat, fish and eggs and extra food like chocolate cake and biscuits in moderation. I think if we aim to offer a type from each of these food groups during the day, that way your child is more likely to able to get the nutrients and benefits from these foods. I think it is important to focus on 3 meals a day and 2 to 3 snacks, so that way, this is optimizing the possibility of getting fruits and vegetables.

    In terms of examples that can be useful, like I said, serving broccoli on a plate might not be the most appealing thing for a child. I think it is important to make it fun and make them involved, as well. Some ideas would be veggie sticks; you could cut them up into different shapes. You can use them with a dip. You can use cherry tomatoes in a sandwich. Foods, like pancakes and ice cream, as they are extra foods, can still be served with pieces of fruit or frozen fruit just to optimise their fruit intake. Other ideas are homemade muffins; you can add little bits of dried fruit in them. Even you can try disguising vegetables in their meals, whether in a mash, putting a little bit of sweet potato, or in a casserole or a stir fry. A lot of children, if it is actually mixed do not feel like it is hard to eat or they do not realise they're eating it.

    I think it is also important to emphasise not to force-feed. Like I was mentioning before, it is quite natural to feel frustrated but unfortunately force-feeding can actually make it worse. Children can actually feel a bit more anxious around food and might end up eating less. I would say just to be patient and to offer the food into small portions and like I said before, try different ways of incorporating them.

    Lastly I think another thing that can work to get children to try and eat foods would be to look at rewards and also definitely encouragement and praise when they have tried something new. As a dietitian, I am really for non-food related rewards. I think we do not want to set them up to bad habits, so I think looking at rewards such as reading a book to your child, playing with them for a period of time, giving them a choice of the next family DVD, or anything that they really would enjoy or benefit from. Over time a lot of praise and encouragement would lead to your child experimenting with different foods, and fruit and vegetables.

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