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Young children start out with an open, blank palate and enjoy almost every food they encounter — even vegetables. But when the toddler years roll around, many kids become picky or disinterested in foods that were previously well accepted, which can be frustrating for parents.

We know many kids in America are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. The effects of this can be seen in the shortfall of important nutrients like potassium in children’s diets.

Start early by introducing fruits and vegetables to your child and continue to rotate through a wide variety of different options to give your child the best chance of meeting the consumption guidelines for fruit and vegetables.

When it comes to eating fruit and vegetables, research shows that more is less. The more produce kids eat, the lower the risk of weight problems, nutrient deficiencies, and challenges like constipation. Fruit and vegetables have high water content, are low in calories, and full of nutrients and fiber, making them a nutrient-rich, filling choice for growing children. They should be part of most meals and snacks.

The total daily amount of fruits and vegetables your child should consume is not staggering. Some children may be able to meet the total day’s fruit servings in one meal (the fruit lover!), or you may divide it over the day — it will depend on your child.

While the quantities below are the minimum daily amounts, you will always want to allow your child’s appetite to dictate how much to consume.

  • The first year is geared to tasting and exposing your baby to new food, so don’t worry about meeting a certain amount. Focus on reading your baby’s appetite signs and let your baby eat until satisfied.
  • 12-24 months: aim for 1 cup of a variety of different fruits and ¾ cup of vegetables each day.
  • 2-3 year-olds: 1 cup of varied fruits and 1 cup of varied vegetables each day.
  • 4-year-olds: 1 cup fruit and 1 ½ cups of vegetables each day.

Takeaways

  • Fruit and vegetables are nutrient-rich foods that help prevent excess weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, and constipation.
  • Introduce and offer a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to your young child’s palate (6 months to early toddlerhood). Continue to offer fruit and vegetables even through picky eating stages and food jags.
  • Make fruit and vegetables a part of meals and snacks, using the daily totals by age as a guide to stay on track.
  • The total quantity of fruits and vegetables your infant and child should eat daily can sometimes be consumed in one meal.

References

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.
  3. Pediatric Nutrition.

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