Eat a Rainbow!

I hope you are having a happy and healthy winter!  One of the best ways you can keep your immune system strong and avoid those colds that tend to attack us during the cold winter season is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  In last month’s Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange newsletter about Messages from MyPlate, we learned that we should be filling half of our plates full of fruits and veggies.  But we get the most benefit from our fruits and veggies when we have a large variety in the kinds of fruits and veggies the we eat.  When I teach kids about eating a variety of fruits and veggies, I try to inspire them to eat a rainbow!  Each of the colors can be associated with health promoting components found in the foods, from antioxidants to vitamins.  In this months’ newsletter, we will be talking about each of the colors and their benefits, as well as reminding kids that when they seek out their Five a Day (two fruit servings and three vegetable servings), they should look for real fruits and veggies and beware of wanna-bes (foods that are marketed as being “made from real fruit” and “contains real vegetables” but have other non fruit/veggie sources as their main ingredients).

Why A Rainbow?

Colors in food (if they are natural, of course) often correlate to certain micronutrients.  Talk with your child about the benefits of each color group, using the chart below as a guide:

(For more information please visit:

You might be thinking, how can I possible get all of those colors on my child’s plate?  You might be surprised how easy it is to find fruits and veggies in all colors of the rainbow.  Use the following as a guide, but allow your child to be your shopper’s assistant in the grocery store (“can you help me find a purple vegetable?”), see what kind of colorful plates you can create.

Fruits and Veggies:  A Rainbow of Colors



Give me 5!  (Servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Three servings of veggies, and two of fruit.  One serving = approximately ½ cup)

Yes, your child should be eating more vegetables than fruit.  I think we might all agree that getting our kids to eat vegetables is a bit more difficult than fruit.  How to get in all those veggies?  If our kids need three ½ cup servings per day, that is a total of about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.  Here are some examples of ½ cup servings of vegetables that you might find easy to provide your child:

-6 Baby Carrots or 6 Cherry Tomatoes (put in a morning or afternoon snack)
-5 Broccoli Florets (include in your child’s lunch)
-1/2 Sweet Potato  (serve at dinner)

 We did it!  It wasn’t that hard, was it?  And just for kicks here are some additional ideas:

-Add veggies to pizza, wraps and sandwiches
-Eat a small salad
-Snack on carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes
-Add veggies to your favorite pasta/rice dishes

Looking for even more ideas?

1.      Check out the February 2011 Healthy Kids newsletter for some great inspiration:  Edible Art!  (The creations are primarily made from fruits and veggies).

2.      Check out these recipes from the Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange recipe blogs 1) Zucchini and Carrot Gratin, 2) Stuffed Mushrooms (with a green kick, and 3) Beginner’s Soup.  They are all easy and kid tested!

3.      The Fruit & Veggies- More Matters website has some great recipes for fruits and veggies, and you can search by color!

Fruits, Veggies, and Wanna Bes.
Kids are smart, but so are the big marketing companies that want to sell us foods that they proclaim to be healthy.  When I teach kids about fruits and veggies, we go through a fun game that I call “Fruit, Veggie, or Wanna Be!?”  I show them some pictures of REAL fruits and vegetables, but then I also include some items that are marketed as “contains real fruit!” or “made with real vegetables!”, and we look at the ingredients list to find out if they are instead a “wanna be” (real fruits and/or vegetables are not listed as a top ingredient).  If they are a “wanna be”, I remind them that these foods do not contribute to the total five servings that we want to get each day, and they do not count as far as eating a rainbow!  Here are some “wanna be” examples:


I hope you have a very happy and colorful month!


Back copies of Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange monthly newsletters are always available online.

Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Delicious and Nutritious, Green and Plenty and Wholesome Heart Blogs!

Delicious and Nutritious recipes are kid tested and range from breakfast to snacks.  We occasionally include a dessert as well –which we know is probably more delicious than it is nutritious, but we feel that people need a sweet treat here and there.  We hope you are inspired by our ideas!

Green and Plenty presents the latest in nutrition, delicious and seasonal recipes, green design and wellness tips for the reader and her family.

Wholesome Heart:    includes delicious recipes, time-saving tips, and nutrition tidbits.


This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.


  1. Great news from Nutritional Concepts: Happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to a new report from journal Social Indicators Research. Economists and public health researchers studied the eating habits of 80,000 people in Britain. They found mental well being appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people consumed.

    The problem is that hardly any of us come close to accomplishing that portion amount. Here are a few ideas of how to us eat more of them.

    1) Give them a snazzy name. Would you rather eat “carrots” or “crunchy yummy carrots”? Or, if you’re a youngster, “X-Ray Vision Carrots”? Would you rather eat broccoli or “Power Punch Broccoli” or “Tiny Tasty Tree Tops”?

    Researchers looked at food sales over two months in two neighboring NYC suburban schools. For the first month, both schools offered unnamed food items, while on the second month carrots, broccoli and green beans were given the more attractive names, only in one of the schools (the treatment school.) Vegetable purchases went up by 99% in the treatment school, while in the other school vegetable sales declined by 16%.

    2) Serve water with every meal. The premise of the research in the journal Appetite is based upon the fact that taste preferences are heavily influenced by repeated exposure to particular foods and drink pairings. For instance, children have learned to associate sweet, high-calorie drinks like colas with salty, fatty foods like fries. But after observing the dietary habits of young adults and preschool children, preschoolers ate more raw vegetables like carrots and red peppers when they were given water, as opposed to a sweetened beverage.

  2. Gimme SEVEN!
    Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42% compared to eating less than one portion, according to a new study from Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health
    Eating seven or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31% respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

    This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

    Compared to eating less than one portion of fruit and vegetables, the risk of death by any cause is reduced by 14% by eating one to three portions, 29% for three to five portions, 36% for five to seven portions and 42% for seven or more.

    Fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16%. Salad contributed to a 13% risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller but still significant 4% reduction.

    There was no benefit from fruit juice.

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