Vegetables are essential to children’s growth and development. They also provide nutrients for the body and help prevent sickness and disease. The healthier your children are, the less likely it is that they will become sick. Most of my children at daycare are not sick because I feed them healthy snacks and meals. Occasionally, I will have children who have a cold or a little running nose, but that can be controlled by what you eat as well. Vegetables also help build up your immune system. When I eat healthy I do not get sick. However, if I eat sweets during the day, I feel weak and tired at the end of it.
As mentioned earlier, vegetables should be eaten at every meal such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Vegetables also make a great afternoon or late night snack. For example, carrots or celery with homemade salad dressings makes a wonderful dipping experience for children. The best way to eat vegetables is raw, because they retain all of the nutrients that way. When they are overcooked a lot of the nutrients disappear. However, if your vegetables have a crunch to them when you cook them, then you still have nutrients in them.
Smoothies are a great way to feed children vegetables if they do not like them. I add fruit and almond milk to the vegetables to make them sweet. I also involve the children with making the smoothies. They can slice their own fruit, add vegetables, and pour almond milk into the juicer. Children also learn how to measure their drink and work the machine. I also recommend that adults drink the smoothies with the kids. I did a health and nutrition presentation two years ago for preschool teachers and child care providers, and one of the ladies was hesitant to drink the smoothie because it was green. The other participants told her it was good and I said it as well. However, she would not budge until she saw me drink it right in front of her. She was finally convinced and in the end really enjoyed the vegetable fruit smoothie.
When I introduce new vegetables to the children we have an activity called the “Taste Test.” First, I have the children stand around a table so they can look at the new vegetable. Then I ask them to guess the vegetable’s name. Next we go over the color or colors of vegetables, before the children get to hold and feel the vegetables to learn their texture. They also get to smell them. Last but not least, they get to taste the vegetables. First we slice the vegetable and then we eat it raw. Next, we cook the vegetables in our wok and add a little olive oil. Personally, I love most of the vegetables cooked. However, most of the children love the vegetables raw because of the texture change, which is the best way to eat them anyway. This activity has helped my picky eaters to at least try the foods. Picky eaters see their classmates and I eat it, so they want to try it out for themselves.
Fruit provides many vitamins such as vitamin C. It also is a great substitute for sweets. Strawberries, oranges, tangerines, and mango are fruits that contain vitamin C. Berries provide antioxidants, which lowers the risk of certain diseases. One of my health advisors told me that many children are not getting enough fiber, which causes constipation. She suggested that parents feed their children fruit, vegetables, and water.
I have an apple tree in my back yard, and every year the children receive a basket to pick their own apples. We eat and slice some of the apples. Sometimes the children can dip almond or peanut butter with their apples. The children and I also boil them. After the apples are cooked we mash them up and add cinnamon. Now the children have made their own homemade applesauce. Another favorite snack the children love having is frozen grapes, and they also like making fruit kabobs. It is neat to watch the children make patterns with their fruit, and some even share them with the class; meanwhile, others have to tell the class that they have already eaten their fruit pattern!