Kids still not eating enough produce

179322257How many fruits and vegetables should children eat every day? 

Actually, the recommendations for fruits and vegetables vary widely. They depend on children’s daily calorie needs, which relate to their age and activity level. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that:

  • Children ages 2 to 5 should eat 1 to 1.5 cups of fruit and 1 to 2 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 should eat 1 to 2 cups of fruit and 1.5 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children and teens ages 12 to 19 should eat 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day.

For details on these recommendations, including amounts of specific types of vegetables and methods to prepare fruits and vegetables, see appendices 6 and 7 in the Dietary Guidelines, online as a PDF atbit.ly/2010dietary.

As you might suspect, most kids don’t eat enough produce. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while children have increased their overall fruit intake since 2003, most — 6 in 10 — are still not eating enough fruit. What’s worse, 9 in 10 kids don’t meet the recommendations for vegetable consumption.

One promising sign: The message to choose whole fruits over fruit juice appears to be getting through. Fruit juice is a concentrated source of calories and doesn’t have the fiber or, sometimes, some of the nutrients that whole fruit provides. The CDC report found that fruit juice intake significantly decreased, while whole fruit consumption increased significantly — more than making up for the reduction in juice intake.

The findings about vegetables were not as positive. Not only was there no increase in vegetable consumption over the study period, 2003 to 2010, but 30 percent of the vegetables kids consumed were white potatoes, often eaten as less-healthful fried potatoes or even potato chips.

To help kids and teens eat more fruits and vegetables, parents can:

  • Eat fruit and vegetables with your children. Modeling good behavior and enjoying a healthful snack with your kids is always helpful.
  • Make sure a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available and in eyesight. Cut up and prepare produce ahead of time, and keep it at the front of the refrigerator. Make it easier to reach for an apple or carrot sticks than it is to grab some chips or cookies.
  • Include children when shopping for, growing, and preparing fruit and vegetables.
  • Encourage children to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Offer options — “Would you like this or that?” — to get kids to try new fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick with favorites all the time.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

More fruit, veggies in school lunches

178470554My daughter says students at her school throw away a lot more cafeteria food these days because they get too many vegetables. Why serve a food if kids just throw it away?

A lot of people had this fear when new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for school meals went into effect in 2012. Those new standards are required for the 100,000-plus schools taking part in the National School Lunch Program. The rules mandate schools offer more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and require students to select either a fruit or a vegetable as part of their lunch.

Even though many people complain the result is more food waste, some new research indicates that’s not the case. A study in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine compared the amount of food thrown away in the cafeterias of four low-income schools in Massachusetts before the new rules went into effect and afterwards.

They found that the amount of food wasted in these school cafeterias remained about the same, and serving more fruits and vegetables led to higher consumption of produce. For example, the number of children choosing fruit at lunch increased from 53 percent to 76 percent after the rules went into effect, but there was no increase in the amount of food thrown away, meaning the children were eating more fruit.

In addition, among children choosing vegetables at lunch, the percent of vegetables consumed increased from 25 percent to 41 percent, and the amount increased from about one-eighth of a cup to one-third of a cup a day. These children also tended to eat more of their main entree.

Interestingly, another recent study looked at the effects of local bans on chocolate milk in schools. The goal of such bans is to reduce the calories and added sugar in children’s diets: a cup of chocolate milk has about 25 grams (over 6 teaspoons) of sugar, compared with about 12 grams in white milk. But a study conducted by Cornell University and published in the journal PLOS ONE on April 16 found that such bans in 11 Oregon elementary schools led to students drinking 10 percent less milk and wasting 29 percent more milk. Although the students consumed less sugar and calories, they also consumed less protein and calcium.

Researchers suggested ways schools could encourage plain milk over chocolate milk instead of outright bans, and ways to serve other healthy offerings that might have better results. See more at foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/chocomilk and smarterlunchrooms.org/.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.