One of the best ways that we can support our families' health is by increasing variety in our diets. Increasing variety is the best way to ensure that we are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals in our diets that are required for proper functioning of all our body systems.
By asking the simple question “how can I add more color?” we can easily make strides in achieving this variety. It’s easy to get in the routine of just serving our favorites or keeping it simple, and then before we know it we get to where all our meals look the exact same on a daily or weekly basis (which in of itself is not a bad thing, however, it just makes us more prone to nutritional deficiencies). This is also how we start to create picky eaters.
Ideally the more color on your plate the better. Shoot for the goal of about 5 different colors, but if you cant get that right away, its okay, work your way up. The best way to achieve this is by adding more fruits and vegetables, which really give us the best bang for our buck when it comes to vitamins and minerals. I really tried to make this a habit from the get go with my son, so if you have a toddler or are just starting solids with your kid this is a great way to start.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is NORMAL for them to go through phases of liking foods and then wanting nothing to do with that food. Almost all kids go through stages where they will eat really well and then it seems like all they are eating is just a few bites all day long. My son will go through phases of eating meat really well and then all of a sudden he wants nothing to do with meat. Even some of his favorite fruits and vegetables he will go through phases like this, including blueberries. Some of this is just their way of showing independence and that is totally okay and developmentally appropriate. Where we get into trouble is when we stop offering foods. If we stop offering the food that they used to like then they are less likely to start eating it again. If we have a “picky eater” and only offer them what we know they are going to eat and leave off either the foods that they want them to eat or the foods that add more color like fruits and vegetables then of course they are going to continue to not like them. They aren’t going to ask for them that is for sure. My suggestion is that even if you think they are not going to eat that particular food, still put in on their plate. Dont start the battle of “you need to eat this”. If it’s there you are definitely increasing the likelihood that they will at least try it. And guess what, often times it takes several times of just being exposed to the food for them to try it or like it. I feel like my son especially is more likely to try something when I am not staring at him or encouraging him to try, but rather just letting him do his thing (again, this can come back to the independence factor).
So let’s talk about some examples! Let’s say that you do cereal every morning for breakfast. Can you add some blueberries, strawberries or raspberries? If you do peanut butter toast, can you add some bananas and some hemp hearts? Bananas are also something that can easily be added to that plain peanut butter sandwich. If mac and cheese, pasta, or chicken nuggets are a staple, can you do a smaller portion of that and then do a side of broccoli, tomatoes, carrots or peppers. This also works when we are eating out! We tend to keep it simple with just a burger or chicken and fries or grilled cheese and fries, but ask yourself “how can I add more color”? Can you get the fruit cup, or side of veggies instead of the fries?
I promise you, this does not have to be difficult or something that requires a lot of thought. It really is as simple as looking at what you are serving and saying “how can I add more color?" Before you know it you are increasing the variety of the things that you are serving, which in turn is increasing the variety of vitamins and minerals that you are providing to nourish those developing bodies! For many kids you can even include them in this process and tell them why it’s so important. Have them come to the refrigerator and pick out a few different colored foods, have them search for variety at grocery store. You can even make it a game to pick out something at the grocery store that THEY would like to try that is colorful – go to the produce section and encourage them to pick something red, purple, orange & green, so that you are less likely to have that battle when it comes to mealtime!
I hope that this is a simple strategy that you and your family can start to implement today! Don’t forget to tag us @perfectlyunprepared with your colorful plates!
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