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What Are the Benefits of Fruits & Vegetables for Kids?

By Becky Bell, MS, RD

Fruits and vegetables may not top the list for kids' favorite foods, but good reasons exist to include more of these foods in your child's diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. The health benefits of these super foods can affect your child's health now and into adulthood.

Overall Nutrition

Several important nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folate are under-consumed in the United States, according to the USDA. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of these nutrients, along with many other nutrients, and fruits and vegetables can help fill the nutrient gaps in your child's diet. Each fruit and vegetable has its own nutritional profile, so include a wide variety to make sure your child gets the full array of nutrients.

Weight Management

Even though fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition, they are low in calories and fat, and they tend to be filling. Substituting high-calorie snack foods with fruits or vegetables may help decrease your child's daily calorie intake and help him manage his weight. The USDA Economic Research Service found that a high consumption of fruit was associated with a lower Body Mass Index, a tool physicians use to assess weight in relation to height, according to a 2002 study published in "Food Review."

Intestinal Health

The fiber content of fruits and vegetables may help promote healthy bowel patterns and prevent a serious gastrointestinal disease -- diverticulosis. Constipation is a common problem in children but a healthy diet can help. A high-fiber diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables may help prevent the problem. If your child is struggling with constipation, consuming fruits and vegetables like prunes, pears, plums, raisins, peas, beans or broccoli may help bring relief. Be sure to give your child plenty of fluids with a high-fiber diet.

Academic Performance

A healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables may help kids perform better in school. In 2008, a study published in the "Journal of School Health" found that children with poor diet quality were significantly more likely to perform poorly on an academic assessment.

Disease Prevention

Most parents are not worried about conditions like heart disease and stroke. However, a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of these diseases as well certain types of cancer. While a child's risk of heart disease may be relatively low, now is the time to develop healthy eating habits that will promote optimal health in adulthood.

Tips and Suggestions

It is clear that the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are abundant. However, it's not always an easy task to get your kids to eat nutritious foods. USA Today reported that most kids are consuming less than half the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. To make these foods more exciting to your kids, let them pick them out at the grocery store and include them in the cooking process. Hide vegetables in foods they like by pureeing them into sauces or adding small pieces to casseroles or pastas.

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