By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, what better time to consider how including more fruits and vegetables like fresh juice can be good for the whole family. Juicing fruits and veggies holds great promise in improving the quality of our children’s diets. It is innovative, fun, interactive, easy to do, and it is a highly efficient way to drastically boost nutrient intake. From a nutrition standpoint, one glass of juice can provide on average 4 servings of fruits and vegetables and a greater dose of phytonutrients including anti-oxidants and other immune supportive compounds as compared with commercial juice.
Fresh juice is a vehicle for providing vegetables in a fashion that tastes good and is visually appealing. Juicing could prove to be a powerful tool for bridging the gap between dietary recommendations and real life. It is something that can appeal to a younger generation especially when introduced in the context of a movie, like Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and when moms and dads are demonstrating healthy eating in their everyday life.
I find this to be true in my own home; whenever I start juicing or blending up smoothies my kids come over to help. My boys (ages 7 and 2 ½) love the loud noise, inevitable mess and of course the tasty drinks! They aren’t afraid to let me know which ingredients they like best and which juices or smoothies aren’t their favorites. Asking for their feedback is important in keeping them active in the process and letting me know how to tweak my recipe next time for a better flavor. Two of my favorite tips are adding spinach and avocado to fruit based smoothies. While I’m not afraid to tell them what they’re drinking, they have no idea the greens are there unless we make it together.
It’s important to note that while including fresh juice as part of a balanced diet can be healthy for children and teens, a full Reboot is not advised. Adding more vegetables and fruits to meals and snacks is the way to go. If you think your child or teen could benefit from a Reboot please speak with their pediatrician first.
The statistics about childhood obesity are frightening with at least 12.5 million American youth currently meeting the criteria, and complications like Type 2 diabetes are on the rise as a result. On average only 10-14% of children and teens are consuming 2 or more fruits/vegetables per day in some states.
Increasing consumption of plant foods may not only help improve children’s health it may also help them do better in school. One study in Florida found that school children receiving a healthy eating intervention had significantly higher math scores and better reading scores. They also stayed within normal BMI percentile ranges over two years compared with the children who did not receive the intervention.
The Better Food, Better Behavior study of an Appleton, WI high school has yielded similar results. By providing fresh, healthy foods to students, grades are up and behavior is better with zero students dropping out, being expelled, found using illegal drugs or carrying weapons. Even more encouraging is that students are enjoying these changes and have made their desire for good food known in the community. Teachers commented that, “returning students are now the advocates for the program. The kids encourage each other and set the example for the new kids.” Key school officials note the cost effectiveness of better quality food despite seemingly higher costs for food. They cite the savings of not having students arrested and less need for funding security officials at school offset upfront expense for fresh ingredients.
The myth that kids don’t like vegetables is being dispelled. Research from California highlights that schools can increase consumption of healthful foods by making them more available, tasty and attractive: Taste, choice, variety, presentation and advertising have consistently been shown to influence what youth eat. Children will choose healthful alternatives when they are consistently available, tasty, appealing and attractively or creatively served.
Have you noticed your kids eating more fruits and vegetables during your reboot?
What are some of their favorite juice, smoothie or veggie meal recipes?