Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Get Your Family to Eat More Veggies

For most Americans eating adequate amounts of vegetables is a daily struggle. The typical recommendation for daily consumption of vegetables is 3 servings a day.  Through the ChooseMyPlate initiative, the USDA recommends approximately one quarter of your plate be filled with vegetables at each meal.

How much vegetables are Americans eating?
In 2010, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study that found only 27.2 percent of Americans eat at least 3 servings of vegetables per day.  In a more recent publication the CDC estimate Americans eat an average of 1.6 servings of vegetables daily.  Both reports indicate one thing - Americans are not eating an adequate amount of vegetables.

Why aren't Americans eating enough vegetables?
Unfortunately America's excuse for not eating enough vegetables is complex and complicated. Some studies suggest a lower socioeconomic status is associated with lower vegetable intake.  Other common reasons Americans don't eat vegetables include dislike for the flavor, lack of time to prepare, and lack of knowledge on how to prepare.

What are some tips to increase the vegetable intake in your household?
1.  Add flavor without adding fat.  Vegetables can taste delicious when prepared correctly.  Fat sources do not need to be added to them to make them taste good. Add your favorite herbs, onion, garlic, pepper, fresh lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar to cooked or raw vegetables.

2. Add to your family favorite dishes.  Add spinach, squash, or shredded carrots to your favorite pasta dish or casserole.  Vegetables will add more depth to the flavor of the dish, but usually will be
unrecognizable. In most cases your family will not realize the vegetables are included.

3. Make a family outing to a local farmers market.  This allows the opportunity for the whole family to explore all the fun variety of vegetables available.  Encourage each member to try something new at each visit.  Plus they will be more excited to eat veggies if they pick them out themselves.

4.  Excite children by focusing on the colors.  For younger children, during the learning process of colors make sure to include the color of vegetables. For instance emphasize broccoli as "green" or carrots as "orange".  The vivid colors of vegetables will attract them to various vegetables.

5.  Practice "meatless mondays". Start new a new tradition and have a vegetarian meal for family dinner on Mondays.  The philosophy is by cutting out meat once per week, you can improve your health and reduce carbon footprint. It will encourage your family to increase intake of vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Your family's dietitian,
Kristen Smith

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