“Kids Eat Right” in the Garden!

Karen Martin, MA,RDN,LD,FAND

girl-chicken

Let them eat…dirt?  Summer pics of my grandkids are rarely clean and posed but are action shots exploring the outdoors and particularly growing their own food.  Not only are kids more likely to try foods that they have nurtured and watched grow, they are also cultivating a palate for powerhouse superfoods.

Consider the benefits:  Gardening is an activity the whole family can enjoy! Catch a few vitamin D revving rays, get a little dirty, get in some squats and lunges, connect with nature and enjoy a better than farm fresh harvest in your own back yard.

I love that some Texas MDs are taking Hippocrates call to “Let food be thy medicine” seriously and writing “Farmacy” prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables.   Co-op pick-ups are supported by a grant to provide a discount for boxes of fresh, organic produce.  Vegetables and fruits are loaded with health promoting and disease fighting phytonutrients and are naturally low in calories so this is the perfect food group to supersize portions without supersizing waistlines.  The last two decades have seen a rise in obesity and related diseases (Type II Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and orthopedic problems) that previously were not seen in children.  It is important to eat 5 fruit and vegetable servings daily.  More attention to the “Farmacy” or garden fresh foods may provide added benefit of controlling obesity-related diseases and decrease the need for pharmacy prescriptions in the future. Join the food truck craze and look for farm fresh produce food trucks that are available in many Texas cities.

Check out resources and recipes on www.kidseatright.org. Find a licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) focused on pediatric nutrition  for any special diet needs your child may have.  (Link to the TX directory here)

Let kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. When planning your home garden, get the family involved and include kid-friendly favorites.

Here are some kid’s garden favorites:

  • Carrots–the harvest surprise factor is fun! Beta-Carotene is a potent antioxidant and converts to Vitamin A.
  • Cucumbers–they grow quickly! “Cucs” deliver vitamins K, C, B and many other vitamins and minerals.
  • Melons–large leaves, vines and fruit are sure to impress. Melons are loaded with potassium and vitamins including beta-carotene.
  • Okra—Flowers precede fruit + a math skill bonus with measuring skills since pods are best between 2.5-3.5 inches.

Studies show children need time and multiple experiences and exposures (15-20 times) when learning to eat a new food.  Including vegetables in a matter-of-fact manner as part of a family meal is the parent’s role in helping your child learn to eat new foods.  Limit fruit juice in favor of whole fruits.

Enjoy good nutrition and family time as Kids Eat Right from the garden, and produce section!