Motivating your family to eat fruits and veggies

imagesSo it turns out that if we pay our kids to eat fruits and vegetables, they’ll be more likely to eat them. Those results came from a study that showed elementary school children ate more produce when they were given small monetary rewards.

There are other ways to motivate people to eat fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka, a registered dietitian and president and CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. She spoke to registered dietitians attending the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics state meeting earlier this spring.

Pivonka said, “People know fruits and vegetables are good for you. They just forget how good.” Produce plays a known preventive role in, or can help delay the development of, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cataracts, birth defects and obesity. It also might help diverticulitis, diabetes, osteoporosis, memory and aging, including decreasing skin wrinkles.

Most of us prefer immediate satisfaction such as tasty food rather than waiting for long-term health results. Removing or limiting competing foods at home such as chips, cookies and candy can help us increase produce.

“Don’t preach, scare or guilt people into eating produce,” Pivonka said. Children and some adults might need to be introduced to different types over time before they try them.

I remember when my son Nick, now a college junior, asked as a small child, “I wonder when I’ll start to eat salads?” When I asked him recently why he made that comment, he said, “It was interesting-looking with lots of colors.” It caught his attention, and today Nick enjoys lots of different fruits and vegetables.

That tactic didn’t work as well on his older brother, Alex, though. And part of the problem might have been the taste. Pivonka pointed out, “Some people taste vegetables more bitterly than others.”

But by providing the produce your family enjoys, they’ll be more likely to eat it. Making them available for snacks or packing as single servings helps, too.

Some people use price as an excuse not to eat produce. The cost varies from 20 cents to $2 per cup. Based on choices, you can eat the minimum daily recommended 3½ cups for about $2.50. To put that in perspective, compare the price with that of one cup of your favorite takeout flavored coffee beverage.

While all forms of fruits and vegetables are good for you (fresh, frozen, canned, juice), take advantage of fresh, local produce this summer.

I enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables now. As a child, I was stuck on green beans for a long time, most likely because of their mild flavor. As an adult, I have branched out to many green bean recipes. Try this tangy one for Quick Green Beans.


Rachel C.
Research Scientist Consultant @ U-VIB
PhD, Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling
NREMT-P (National Registry of Paramedics)
– 911 Medic for over 10 years
– Search Scientist for over 7 years
– Runner for LIFE

source: Mary-Jo Sawyer is a registered dietitian with VCU Medical Cente


Categories: Nutrition

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