Everyone has heard the spiel about eating more fruits and vegetables, and it seems like there are more reasons discovered everyday to do so. Fruits and vegetables have so many vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health; they can even reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer!
More specifically, fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, or compounds produced by plants. These are better known as antioxidants. There are thousands of phytonutrients in plant-based foods, each with different benefits, so it is important to eat a wide variety. The easiest way to identify phytonutrients is by the color of fruits and vegetables. One common phytonutrient is beta carotene, present in dark, leafy greens like kale or orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, and is known to benefit vision and skin health.
Fruits and vegetables are especially beneficial for little tots who need a lot of nutrition to grow, but sometimes it can be a struggle to get them to eat healthy foods. While parents and caretakers should not force children to eat more fruits and vegetables, there are ways to gently encourage this habit that has lifelong benefits.
One way to get children excited is by involving them in food prep and planning. This can range from allowing children to choose the fruit or vegetable they want to eat to counting out berries in a bowl (with an added early math learning opportunity!). Even more fun is engaging children with an educational gardening activity!
Garden-based learning helps children develop many important skills beyond the traditional classroom setting. This includes the opportunity to engage little learners in plant life cycles, environmental awareness, and food sources.
Although gardening may seem like a difficult activity, it is one that can be started right in the kitchen. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown from food scraps that are normally discarded. This includes seeds from citrus fruits and avocados, carrot heads, old cloves of garlic, sweet potatoes, and leftover chunks of ginger.
Sprouting a fruit or vegetable, like an avocado seed, takes patience, but is fun to set up and observe. You can start your own avocado plant at home in these easy steps.
While waiting for your fruit or vegetable to grow, continue introducing children to bright and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Youngsters can learn the names of various fruits and vegetables with Eating the Rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are grouped by colors, and large, bright photographs of toddlers enjoying these delicious snacks are sure to entice readers!
Name the colors of the fruits and vegetables as they come straight from the source in What’s In My Garden? Children will also learn the names of vegetables as they lift the flaps to gather them into their basket. These fun reads are sure to get children started on recognizing various fruits and vegetables and on the path to nutrition awareness!