The best part of a good rainstorm is always the beautiful rainbow at the end. There is something about the vibrant colors that bring life back into the world after a gloomy day. A rainbow of food colors can make you feel that same way, vibrant and full of life. This is one reason why kids should eat the rainbow.
Kids see color this way too! Did you know that when kids see more color on their plate in fun ways they are more likely to eat their food? Colors go far beyond the surface beauty though. Each color also carries important nutrients that help kids grow.
If you are reading this and thinking....But my kids won't eat their vegetables!!!! You are not alone.
Don't stress too much, you are not alone. Standard picky eating shows up most in the form of not wanting vegetables.
If you have a picky eater at home, download this guide to help them start eating more variety!
One thing that can give you some peace of mind, fruits and vegetables have very similar nutrient profiles.
This means that if your kid doesn't eat many vegetables but they are eating a good variety of fruits, they can still get most of the key nutrients. 'Eat the rainbow' means a rainbow of colors, which means fruits and/or vegetables.
Why is it important to 'eat the rainbow'?
The rainbow of colors a child eats helps provide them with many of the essential nutrients their body needs to thrive.
This means choosing a wide variety of different color fruits, and vegetables each day and throughout the week.
Each color provides specific nutrients that play a critical role in supporting their body.
Getting these from whole foods (fresh/frozen/canned fruits and vegetables) is key.
What color fruits and vegetables are best for you?
Remember when you were in grade school and you learned that fun little acronym for remembering the colors of the rainbow?
Roy G. Biv (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
I always pictured it as a small little leprechaun man, maybe the one that sits at the end of the rainbow with the pot of gold.
Well, now you can actually use this little phrase to help your kids eat the rainbow!
These provide flavonoids, lycopene, Vitamin C, and folate that support our heart and help improve memory.
Red foods to include:
- red bell peppers
- red onion
- pink grapefruit
- Flavonoids are a large class of phytonutrients (plant chemicals)
- One key importance is their anti-inflammatory effect and immune booster.
- They are also shown to help prevent diabetes, cancer and neurological function (nerves).
- Lycopene is a phytonutrient that is responsible for giving some fruits and vegetables their red color.
- Tomato products (ketchup and spaghetti/pizza sauce) are the primary source of lycopene for kids in the US.
- They are shown to help prevent cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration (eyes).
- Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is an important nutrient for children.
- It plays an important role in growth and development.
- Helps the body to form and maintain connective tissue (bones, blood vessels, skin) and enhances the absorption of iron in the body.
- It is also a powerful antioxidant and helps boost the immune system.
- Folate, or vitamin B9, helps make healthy cells and body tissue.
- Folic Acid is the synthetic (man-made) form of folate. This is often found in fortified foods like bread, cereals, and pasta.
- Folate is especially important during early pregnancy, to prevent birth defects.
Orange & Yellow Foods
These provide beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C which promote healthy eyes, heart, and immune function.
Orange & yellow foods to include:
- butternut squash
- yellow peppers
- sweet potatoes
- Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid (antioxidant) that gives plants the red, orange, and yellow colors.
- Carotenoids are also converted into vitamin A in the body.
- Beta-carotene is important for cancer prevention, heart disease, eye health and arthritis (of the bone).
- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for healthy eyes, teeth, tissue, and skin.
- Vitamin A may be found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods.
- It is also made in the body from beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
These provide vitamin K, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and omega-3 fatty acids which support healthy bones, teeth, and eyes.
Green foods to include:
- bok choy
- green peppers
- green beans
- Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for healthy bones, tissues, and blood clotting.
- Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plant their green color.
- It is also known for its antioxidant effects, treatment for wounds, and as an internal deodorant.
Blue & purple (indigo/violet) foods
These provide anthocyanin which helps support memory and healthy aging.
Blue & purple foods to include:
- red/purple grapes
- black plums
- red cabbage
- Anthocyanins are powerful compounds that play an important role in helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer.
- Important for their cognitive benefits (brain).
- They have antioxidant properties.
Bonus: White Foods
These provide flavonoids, which help support a healthy heart and good cholesterol levels.
White foods to include:
How can I get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?
If your goal is to start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your kid's meals, start simple.
All change takes time and doing too much at once can be overwhelming.
Keep the pressure off by providing regularly, but not prodding or pushing them to eat anything you provide.
5 tips to help your kids eat the rainbow
- Offer new fruits and vegetables alongside fruits and vegetables your kids already like.
- Offer a fruit and vegetable platter mixed with familiar and new items. Allow them to choose which items they eat and how many. This takes the pressure the new item and offers an exposure.
- Provide fruit and vegetables with dips
- Kids may be more willing to eat certain things when they can dip them
- For vegetables try: ranch, greek yogurt mixed with chili powder (spicy) or turmeric (savory), puree pinto/bean dip, hummus, salsa
- For fruits try: greek yogurt mixed with honey, cinnamon or pumpkin puree
- Serve fruits and veggies in colorful cups/dishes
- Consider buying some colorful silicone muffin cups or serving fruits and veggies in an ice cube tray more muffin tin
- Use descriptive words to describe the flavors/textures such as "crunchy, sweet, sour, twiggy, smooshy."
- Try to avoid using the terms yummy and yucky.
- Allow playtime that includes fruits and vegetables that does not include eating them.
- Let your kids create fruit and veggie houses, artwork or simply allow them time to touch them.
- Talk about them using visual descriptive words such as this broccoli look like little trees, what else do they look like?
- Look up recipes together and let them pick out new fruits and vegetables they want to try.
- Shop for the ingredients together
- Make the recipe together.
- Serve the items (family style) at the next meal, but don't make them eat it if they don't want to
- Talk about their favorite part of making the recipe.
Over time, the above tips will likely help to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind, even with repeat exposure and all of the above tips, there may still be some foods your child doesn't want to eat. We all have foods that we don't love!
Do you have any fruit and vegetable success stories? I would love to hear them 🙂