Insights » 5 a day habit

5 a day habit

Leading by example is what Practical Parenting is all about; this month we look at fussy eaters, and why we could all benefit from eating more fruit and vegetables. 


It has always been interesting to see people and their eating quirks. Whether the whole family hates raw tomatoes, or Mum doesn’t enjoy the texture of rice pudding- it’s funny how many of these habits stick with adults from childhood and end up being inherited by their kids. 


Everyone experiences tastes in different ways; the 5 generally accepted tastes are bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami. Adults and children are drawn to certain vegetables, such as those that are sweeter on the palate: carrots, capsicums, sweet corn, peas, beans and sweet potato. The less popular ones are things like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach- things that might taste bitter when you aren’t used to eating them.


Most national health services still recommend 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day; 2 portions of fruit, and 3 of vegetables. Children and adults benefit greatly from this, both for healthy development and prevention of disease. The fiber content is vital for digestive health, and managing obesity- just keeping enough fiber in your family’s diet could solve a host of digestive issues, manage healthy weight all around and keep everyone feeling fuller for longer.


You might have a ‘like it or lump it’ approach to eating your unpopular healthy foods, which may work for you. Sometimes you as a parent aren’t particularly fond of the food you’re pushing, meaning that it doesn’t appear frequently on your table despite being a good health choice all around. Perhaps both you and the kids need some convincing. 


Here are some ways we think will make the whole experience a little more palatable.


Whether or not you’re a breakfast person, it’s usually a meal people benefit from eating. Sometimes mornings are rushed and you need a quick fix: maybe a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, toast or a smoothie is your thing. Perhaps you enjoy eggs, pancakes or cooked breakfasts. Think of how you can include fruit and vegetables in your breakfasts. 


Pre-preparing meals comes into play here and it can’t be said enough; just dedicating some time each week (or every few days) can save you time daily and help you prepare cheaper, more nutrition meals.


DIY Smoothie packs: Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of fruit and vegetables into one go, and keep dietary fiber up. Each weekend, get zip lock bags or reusable containers and have all your chopped fruit for the week ready to throw into a blender. Have it frozen and ready to go in the morning rush. Berries are low in calories and full of antioxidants, but using some sweeter and higher fat produce sparingly (banana, avocado, mango) can make a really enjoyable and satisfying drink. Make them up for as many servings as you need.  Keep some car-ready cups as they make a great portable breakfast.


Try to avoid adding too many dairy products like yogurt or milk and making a milkshake; use 100% pure fruit juice to sweeten, or natural honey or agave. Try using coconut water as a base for your smoothie. Use sweet, tasty fruits to disguise less popular things like fresh leafy greens (spinach, for example is easily hidden and full of calcium).


Breakfast wraps: Have frozen burrito-style breakfast wraps, and pack as many veggies as you can in there- along with eggs, cheese, and meats. Everyone can pitch in and pick their favorite combination on the weekend, and build their own specialty. I find that certain bread freezes better than others, such as tortilla bread. Keep them ready in the fridge to eat cold, press them in a sandwich press, or warm in the oven.


Don’t fear the frozen food: This goes for all meal times- never dismiss frozen vegetables and fruit. For some strange reason people think frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh ones, when in fact it is the exact opposite- most vegetables are flash frozen when nutrients are the highest and vegetables are the freshest. My favorite freezer staple good is chopped spinach, I never have an excuse to not add it to a morning omelet, or cook and put on a sandwich with cheese. 


Double your prep: If you’ve taken the time to do meal preparation for the week, don’t hesitate to chop everything you can in one go. Some things can easily be cut up and not spoil, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. You’re more likely to add it to things during the week if it’s ready. 


Additionally, don’t underestimate kids and their desire to snack- chopping some carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, even raw broccoli and cauliflower and keeping them in reusable containers in the fridge. You can always chop them more to add to dishes, but having them ready works wonders. Make or buy a batch of dips, and just have them in the fridge (guacamole, hummus, yogurt, ranch, peanut butter- the possibilities are endless and customisable).


Sleuth vegetables: A lot of people have that one vegetable dislike; there are gadgets around to spiralise certain produce (like zucchini) into noodles that can be sautéed and covered in sauce like any pasta dish. Don’t underestimate your grater for hiding things in sauces and pastries. 


Most of getting more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet is about meal preparation- it’s a great habit to have, and it’s something everyone at home can get involved in. Happy hiding!


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