Spring has finally sprung, bringing an abundance of fresh, local, vibrant fruits and vegetables to your grocery store and farmer's market. Rejoice! Melissa Joy Dobbins, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, offers these tips for making the most of spring's bounty:
Put child-friendly picks at the top of your list. "Some of my favorite kid-approved spring fruits and vegetables include asparagus, green beans, honeydew, mango, pea pods, snow peas, sugar snap peas, pineapple, strawberries, sweet corn, and bell peppers," she says.
Incorporate produce into every meal and snack. "With kids, try to make your dishes fun, such as serving produce with tasty dips like a light ranch for veggies or a yogurt dip for fruit. My kids love it when I make chocolate yogurt simply by adding a packet or two of sugar-free hot chocolate mix to a quart of plain, fat-free yogurt and serving it with strawberries."
Reap the health benefits. Educate yourself -- and your family -- about what you're eating all these veggies for. "Eating more produce any time of year boosts our intake of fiber and important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients," she says. "Different colors in fruits and vegetables indicate different phytonutrients with different health benefits -- red in tomatoes is lycopene, orange in mangos is beta carotene, yellow in pineapple is bromelain, yellow in corn is lutein, green in broccoli is indoles, and blue/purple in blueberries is polyphenols."
Hide veggies in other foods if you have to. "As a dietitian and a mom, I think it's okay to sneak in some produce, especially if you have a picky eater," Dobbins says. "This is to simply get more nutrition into your child while you still continue to offer the individual fruits and veggies and see if he or she is more accepting over time."
Make your children part of the produce process. "My kids and I love going to our farmer's market because it's fun, and we get to meet the farmers, talk with them and get to know them," Dobbins explains. "Get the children involved in picking out the produce at the grocery store or the farmer's market and they may be more interested in it at the dinner table." (You can also sneak in a math lesson by having your kids help pay and accept change!)
When in doubt, make veggie juice. "Some juicers allow you to keep the pulp and fiber, which is nice because then you don't lose their health benefits," says Dobbins. However, when it comes to fruit, she recommends juice in moderation. "The carbs and the calories can really add up if you're not careful," she warns.
Grow a garden. "Growing your own vegetables -- either outside or even on a windowsill -- is a great family project if you have the space," Dobbins says. "It's another wonderful way to get kids more interested in different fruits and veggies and become more willing to try them." Sweet!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
More family health topics:
Getting Fit as a Family
Type 1 Habits May Help Your Whole Family Get Healthy