March is National Nutrition Month; where we help return the focus to the basics of healthy eating. Today, we want to talk about how you can include a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy on their plates every day. Even though Spring may still be more than a month away, there are plenty of colorful, seasonal foods to fill your plate. A rainbow of color creates a palette of nutrients. Healthy eating involves more than just calorie counting. In fact, most children do not get all of the essential nutrients needed for their growth and development. If you are a busy working Mom with a household of picky eaters – how can you make sure your family has enough color in their diet?
Green – produce in shades of green contain antioxidants and may help reduce cancer and promote healthy vision.
Fruits – Avocado, grapes, honeydew, kiwi
Vegetables – Artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach
Orange/Deep Yellow – contain nutrients to protect the immune system, protect vision and reduce the risk of cancer.
Fruits – Apricot, mango, cantaloupe, peach and pineapple
Vegetables – Carrots, orange or yellow pepper, corn and sweet potato
Purple/Blue – have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduce the risk of cancer.
Fruits – Blueberries, blackberries, plums or raisins
Vegetables – Eggplant or purple cabbage
Red – can help to maintain a healthy heart, immune system and reduce cancer risk.
Fruits – Cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grapefruit and watermelon
Vegetables – Beets, red peppers and tomatoes
White/Tan/Brown – contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risk.
Fruits – Banana, pears, dates and white peaches
Vegetables – Cauliflower, mushrooms, onion, parsnips, turnips and potatoes
Aim for at least 3 different colors on your plate. Rather than grilled chicken and a baked potato; top the chicken with salsa, add mashed sweet potatoes and a spinach salad with strawberry slices. The more colorful your plate, the more visually appealing it is, the more flavor it has and the more nutrients it contains.
Have your children help you plan meals that contain at least 3 colors and have them help prepare part of the meal. The more involved children are with the meal planning and preparation, the more likely they will be to eat or at least taste the different colors and foods. Remember, it can take up to 20 times for a child to try a food until they don’t hate it! Don’t give up, offer healthy options along with foods they are familiar with. Also, we are the greatest role models for our children, when they see mom and dad eating healthy and being physically active, they are more likely to follow in our footsteps.
Visit www.eatright.org for more National Nutrition Month tips.