Health and nutrition experts believe that obesity can be prevented through proper diet and exercise. And 4 to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day is what we are supposed to eat. But hey, can we really consume that many servings each day? And even if we manage to do it, how do we pass on this practice on our little children?
I remember when growing up that I hated vegetables. My mom was a fish-and-vegetable person and we resented that we didn’t get meat as often as we wanted. Looking back now, my aversion to vegetables then was due to how they prepared (boiled!) and presented (eat it or else!). But to be fair, there were not that many resources to help moms 30 years ago. Growing up in a tropical country, it was a common belief that veggies (there weren’t that many available then) could not be eaten raw or half cooked or else you’ll get ill. Times have changed and luckily, we have more resources on our hands now, from fridges and freezers to a wide range of fresh produce at the supermarket. In other words, we have room for creativity in preparing and presenting nutritious food. I want to share here with you some tips.
Serving # 1: Breakfast
Cereals (low sugar, low fat) with topped with sliced soft fruit such as banana, kiwi, or oranges. My kids love watching me slicing bananas or kiwis over their bowl of cereal. “Thin slices, please!” And they’d count how many slices a banana can have. The record so far is 46 slices.
Crepe or pancakes topped with fruit such as strawberries or raspberries. But only on weekends when there is no need to rush.
Cereal or pancakes with apple sauce. Choose the sugar-free kind of apple sauce or make your own.
You can add raisins, prunes, fresh nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Serving #2: Morning snack
Sliced apples, pears, cucumbers, or carrots. For their snack box, it’s slices of firm fruit or vegetables. It’s usually apples although firm, crunchy pears are also great. To top it up, I insert a small cheese sandwich or a granola (preferably whole grain) bar.
Serving #3: Lunch
Stirred fried veggies plus rice. Veggies would include carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, zuchini, beans or peas. Another variation would be fried rice with veggies with a dash of soya or oyster sauce. A small amount of cube ham or bacon pieces can make it more appealing.
Baked vegetables. This could be broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes topped with cheese. Another variation is baked veggies with macaroni and ground beef.
Pasta with spinach cream sauce. My kids love this, with macaroni or penne and fresh or frozen spinach. You can add small pieces of smoked salmon and cheese on top.
Serving #4: Afternoon snack
Sliced fruit/fruit salad. If good mangoes are available, I invest in this expensive as my kids love it. I also buy seasonal like melons, pineapples, strawberries, and cherries. If you use canned fruit, choose the sugar-free kind.
Cake with fruit and nuts. I like to bake apple cake, banana bread, carrot cake and other fruity cakes on weekends or when the kids have company.
Apple sauce or fruity yoghurt and whole grain cookies. My kids love apple sauce and yoghurt and I try to buy the ones with low sugar and low fat.
Serving #5: Evening supper
True to the tradition of many European countries, only 1 warm meal is eaten in our family each day. Evening supper would consist of dark bread, cold cuts, and cheese. To go with it:
Mixed salad. Lettuce, tomatoes, and other fresh veggies with Italian dressing (olive oil and vinegar) topped with nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
Veggie cuts with dip. I use low-fat yogurt or vinegar for a dip although the kids would eat the cuts without dip.
Vegetable soup. I sometime prepare vegetable soup during the cold months. This could be pumpkin, broccoli, zuchini, or pea soup, with a sprinkle of cheese and crouton on top.
Let me tell you that I am not a good cook and I don’t like spending so much time in the kitchen. Yet I manage to give myself and my kids the needed nutrition each day. 4 to 5 servings seem much but if you sit down and really think about it, it’s doable. 2 to 3 servings are not ideal but would also do, with focus on fresh produce. But how much is a serving? The CDC has a nifty tool to calculate your needs according to your age, gender, and physical activity.
It’s not easy but the important thing is to try. And in case of kids, you should start them young. I did, and I’m happy to say I am reaping the benefits now.
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