Healthy Together fruits and veggies

Child Health | 4 years ago

Healthy Together: Keeping Your Child Healthy With These In-Season Fruits and Veggies

Maintaining your child's daily intake of at least five servings of fruits and veggies can help fight off colds and the flu, support circulation and digestion, help alertness, and maintain good heart health.

It’s a moment every parent dreads: realizing your child is sick. It starts with a single sniffle, sneeze or cough, and before you know it, they’ve got a full-blown cold – or worse, the flu. The bad news is, experts say young children are particularly vulnerable to getting sick, since their immune systems aren’t as strong. The good news? We’ve got some simple immunity-boosting tips to keep them healthy.   

Ensuring children maintain their daily intake of five servings of fruits and veggies – in a variety of different colors – is important, says Elaine Jones, RDN, LDN, a clinical nutrition manager at Atrium Health. It can help them maintain a healthy immune system, stay physically balanced, and help fight off colds and the flu.

"I like to tell everyone to eat the colors of the rainbow," says Jones. " Switching things up and trying to sample at least small servings of different foods is going to help get them the vitamins and minerals their bodies need."

"A large portion of our immune system health is determined by the health of our intestinal tract," adds Jones. "Fruits and vegetables work to keep things 'moving along' which helps to reduce the amount of toxins passing through our bodies.”

Beyond serving as immune boosters, Jones explains that fruits and vegetables support circulation, good digestion and good heart health. These nutrients are also good for our brains and can help with alertness.

Increasing vitamin intake, lowering sugar intake

If your child wants to snack on nutrient-packed fruit, like strawberries or blueberries, Jones says not to overlook the frozen section. Frozen fruits may have more nutritional value, especially when purchased out of season.

"Fruits and vegetables are picked off the plant at their peak ripeness," says Jones. "They have their optimum level of vitamins and minerals when picked. If they’re processed and frozen within 24 to 48 hours, the vitamins and minerals have been maintained within them."

When grocery shopping, Jones recommends looking out for ingredients on canned items – especially fruits as they tend to be packed in syrup. Jones suggests looking for items made with natural juices, if possible, as the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 6 teaspoons of added sugar per child per day.

According to the American Heart Association, the consumption of added sugars throughout childhood has been linked to obesity, high blood sugar and other risk factors for heart disease.

"Lack of exercise is the second greatest reason for the obesity epidemic in children," says Jones. "The number one is consumption of sugar and calorie-filled drinks."

Staying hydrated

Instead of a sugary drink, Jones recommends opting for a smoothie filled with fruits for a naturally sweetened treat. (Try adding a handful of spinach to the blender for a flavorless nutritional boost!) But, she adds, the go-to drink for kids (and adults!) should be water.

"Don't forget to focus on getting enough water throughout the day,” says Jones. “Water is essential for regulating our body temperature, maintaining healthy circulation, removing toxins from our bodies and hydrating our muscles.”

By eating more fruits and vegetables, being physically active for at least one hour per day, limiting recreational screen time, and avoiding sugary drinks, your family can join the 5210 League and make the pledge to be healthy together.