Green vegetables

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It’s a fact…. Kids hate greens but love oranges and reds

It’s a fact…. Kids hate greens but love oranges and reds

How to try and get your kids to eat their greens (download PDF here

Almost all parents at some point have had to battle with their children to get them to eat their veggies and particularly anything green.  New research carried out by the supplement firm Healthspan has shed some light on how the colour of food can impact on the choices made by kids.

 


Top ten colored foods kids are most put off by

Black 

Green

Purple 

Blue 

Brown 

Beige

Pink

Red 

Yellow

Orange 


 

The research poll of 2,000 adults and children found that more than 45% of kids have certain colour foods they’re less likely to eat than others.  Britain’s favourite food colour for adults is green but unsurprisingly, it’s the complete opposite for children.  Children were more disgusted by the colour green, with almost half of youngsters admitting they have refused to eat something on their plate simply because of its hue.  It also appears that children are drawn to brightly coloured foods such as reds and oranges.

 


“The research poll of 2,000 adults and children found that more than 45% of kids have certain colour foods they’re less likely to eat than others”


 

Dr Megan Arroll, a psychologist specialising in health, said: “Research has shown that children demonstrate the most positive emotional reactions, such as happiness and excitement, towards bright colours and this survey supports this as children’s most popular food colours included red and orange. 

Are green vegetables any more nutritious? 

If you compare vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli with other coloured vegetables then they do contain a richer source of nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin A, which are essential for healthy growth and development.  This doesn’t mean you should be skimping on reds, yellows, oranges and purples though, all vegetables are highly beneficial to health and contain their own unique blend of nutrients and no single variety should be viewed as superior.

 


“If you compare vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli with other coloured vegetables then they do contain a richer source of nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin A”


 

Positive eating environments

There’s no point pushing kids to eat the foods they don’t like.  Kids are stubborn and the more you push the more they will likely resist.   A better approach is to make veggies such as greens available and served in new inventive ways to try and spark interest.  Don’t bribe kids or give them a hard time about food and try not to draw unnecessary attention to specific foods as sometimes it can take quite a few tries before young children are ready to eat them.  Foods should be served in a positive environment with neutral reactions.

 


There’s no point pushing kids to eat the foods they don’t like.  Kids are stubborn and the more you push the more they will likely resist”


 

Children are easily influenced by peers, which is why food likes and dislikes can change from day-to-day.  Family meals can offer way to lead by example and introduce new foods, but try and get everyone else around the table to keep their opinions on food to themselves unless it’s a positive one.

There is no single rule to feeding kids and most of it is down to trial and error but these tips below may provide a few ideas to encouraging your children to eat their greens.

 


“There is no single rule to feeding kids and most of it is down to trial and error”


 

Top tips to get your kids to eat their greens

  1. Many green vegetables, particularly the dark leafy varieties, have a bitter taste that young palates are more sensitive too, which is why they often repel from them so start with sweeter tasting greens such as peas, fine beans, mange tout and sugar snap peas. Whilst you might like your veggies crunchy, kids often prefer theirs to be a little more cooked.
  2. A handful of peas can be added to most home-cooked dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, curry or even macaroni cheese. Try crushing them slightly to make them a little less obvious to fussy eaters.
  3. Re-naming vegetables or cutting into shapes can be a good way to spark interest in vegetables. Broccoli ‘trees’, stars (thin slices of the stalk resembles this shape) or sprinkles (these are the top bits of the vegetable that can be removed with a knife or scissors) are a few ways to present this vegetable. Spiralized courgette can also be fun for kids.
  4. Try allowing children to help prepare meals with you. Preparing a stir-fry together is a good way to learn about different vegetables and you can add in sugar snap peas, Tenderstem broccoli or edamame beans for them to try whilst you cook.  You can talk about the rainbow colours of foods.
  5. Whilst you should try and encourage children to eat whole vegetables, fortifying foods with greens is a good way to boost your child’s nutritional intake, particularly fussy eaters. A simple tomato sauce is often the mainstay of many family meals so try whizzing canned tomatoes or a shop bought sauce in a food processor with a few greens such as spinach, peas or courgettes.  Homemade smoothies and juices are a good way to slip in a few cheeky greens.
  6. Serve your greens with a dip. Most children love dips such as hummus so amongst the sliced red peppers and carrots, introduce sugar snap peas or lightly blanched Tenderstem broccoli as dippers.

There is little point in stressing out about getting children to eat certain foods as over time their tastes generally change and few people enter adulthood malnourished with lists of foods they refuse to eat.  Food surveys also show that most children get adequate nutrition from their diet.  The government recommends topping up children’s diets with vitamins ACD.

(download PDF here)

Glorious greens!

Glorious greens!

Eat your greens

Most of us are more than familiar with the term, “eat your greens”, as a well-used mantra for good nutrition and it seems we can’t get enough of them.  Green is a colour most commonly associated with all things healthy and their position in the current wellness landscape is clear from the popularity of juices, powders and self-proclaimed ‘superfoods’ derived from this group of vegetables.  The social media site, Instagram has become one of the main platforms for people to share their love of food with hashtags for kale revealing over 2 million posts and avocado exceeding 4 million.

 

The green revolution

Foods such as kale, avocado and courgette have become the heroes of the ‘green revolution’ as influential food bloggers showcase innovative ways to serve these vegetables such as spiralised courgette, kale chips or avocado on toast.  The positive press about green vegetables has also resonated with shoppers as market research shows how they choose kale for health in 9 out of 10 occasions.  Other green vegetables also carry a similar message with three quarters of consumers actively thinking about health when eating spinach and broccoli.

 

Popularity of green vegetables

Last year’s sales figures from Waitrose showed that courgette sales were up 13% from the previous year and that spring greens were up 23%.  The popularity of kale, the ambassador for healthy greens, is also continuing to rise with Marks and Spencer reporting that they have sold twice as much as the previous year.  Market research from Kantar Worldpanel echoes these figures by reporting that overall sales of kale in the UK were up by 54% on the previous year.  However, despite their popularity and sales figures, the NDNS survey shows that greens are still not our preferred choice as intake of vegetables such as kale, broccoli, sprouts and cabbages are low compared with more popular choices such as tomatoes.

 

Nutritious greens

So are green vegetables any more nutritious?  Well if you compare vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli with other coloured vegetables then they do contain a richer source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium but this doesn’t mean you should be skimping on reds, yellows, oranges and purples.  All vegetables are highly beneficial to health and contain their own unique blend of nutrients and no single variety should be viewed as superior.

Aside from vitamins and minerals that are essential to life, vegetables also contain Phytonutrients.  These compounds are pigments that give plants their vivid array of colours and originally evolved to help protect against diseases and insects.  Research has shown how these plant compounds help to protect our health and reduce the risk of disease.  There are many thousands of phytonutrients and research has only just started to unveil their identity and very complex action in the body. 

Phytonutrients also act as antioxidants that help to prevent against the damage caused by the oxidation of molecules, which is a process that creates free radicals.  Free radicals are a natural byproduct of metabolism but an excess can build up in the body when we are exposed to environmental factors such as too much sun, pollution or smoking.

 

Eye health

Two such phytonutrients found in green vegetables are lutein and zeaxanthin that have been shown to help maintain good eye health.  Both are found in high concentration in the macula, which is an area within the retina of the eye.  One purpose of these phytonutrients is to help filter our harmful light that can potentially damage the eye.  Large studies have shown that these nutrients help to lower the risk and slow down the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness in older people.  Further studies have also shown that people with the greatest intakes of foods rich in lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, in particular kale, spinach and broccoli, are less likely to develop cataracts.

 

Still not eating enough vegetables

Although green vegetables receive a lot of attention, regardless of colour, the reality is that as a nation we still don’t eat enough of any vegetable.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) has shown that on average we are only eating four daily servings of fruits and vegetables and that only 30% of us are eating more than the recommended 5-a-day.

 Research by University College London has suggested that there is a greater benefit to be had by eating more than seven servings daily and that this should include more vegetables as these hold greater health benefits.  They found that those who ate at least seven serving daily were 42% less likely to die from any cause over the course of their study.

 

Include a rainbow of colours!

Green vegetables are undeniably very nutritious and have been widely studied for their health benefits including those related to eye health.  Whilst it’s a good idea to included them in your daily diet you should avoid the hype and eat a rainbow of foods to maximise your nutrient intake. These foods in particular are often labelled with the term ‘superfood’ but this holds little nutritional significance and no single vegetable or any food for that matter can be viewed as a panacea.  The focus should start with increasing overall intake of vegetables as their benefit to health is well proven.