Thursday, March 12, 2015

Serve Your Kid A Fistful Of ... Veggies!

Are you worried your kid isn't getting enough fruits and vegetables?  How can you not be, right?  I mean, there are thousands of articles about it online and your kid is probably pushing his plateful of vegetables away with only a bit more gusto than he inhales sugars.  And then there are the judging eyes of other Moms and Dads and Grandparents.  It is really, really easy to worry that your kid is falling short of the recommended amount of veggies.  But are you sure?

What I call the Picky Eater Panic occasionally rears its ugly head even to me when I see my kids wolf down pizza while vegetables sit sadly on their plates.  But its a mostly overblown fear.  The secret truth is that a serving of vegetables for you three-year old isn't that big and your kid is probably easily getting that much.  How much? About a quarter cup.

That is the word from

Below are the serving sizes for three- to six-year-old kids (with the serving size for 1-3 year old kids in parenthesis).

This is 2/3 of ALL the veggies your kid needs for the day!
A quarter cup of peas and another of broccolli
Veggies (three total servings):
Cooked: 1/4-1/2 cup (1-3 tbsp)
Raw, chopped: 1/4-1/2 cup (1-3 tbsp)
Leafy greens: 1/4-1/2 cup (1/4-1/2 cup)

A quarter cup is not a lot.  Two four-year-old handfuls of peas probably surpasses a quarter cup.  A single large broccoli spear and you've probably hit it, or gotten darn close.  Take a look at the picture, that is three frozen broccoli heads.  Even at the top end, two large broccoli spears probably equals a half cup.  And half a cup of leafy greens isn't much, even if you take compacting them very, very seriously.  You can whip up a smoothie, completely meet your fruit requirement for the day and hide a quarter cup of leafy greens in it.  Done and done.  By way of example, my kids regularly eat three baby carrots, and while hardly a scientific conclusion, that has to be darn close to a 1/4 or even 1/2 cup.  That is one serving.  Five grape tomatoes?  Another serving bites the dust.

Provide enough vegetables and I feel you almost have to accidentally hit three servings. 

Fruit is never as worrisome, but lets take a look there as well.

Fruit (two total servings):
Canned: 1/2 cup (1-3 tbsp)
Fresh: 1/4 cup - 1 whole (1/4 cup)
Dried: 1/4 cup (1 tbsp)

How do we meet these requirements?  Well, kids will generally eat what they see their parents eating, so eating veggies is always helpful.  It also puts the food on the table and makes it clear that eating veggies is an accepted and normal part of a meal.  And keep introducing them and reintroducing them.  We have one kid that will try almost anything, and another who won't eat two things that have been combined together, no matter how much he likes the two things separately.

Most kids will eat tomato soup, and you can probably get your kid to two servings of vegetables right there.  And for all the Picky Eater Panic that goes on, there are an almost limitless supply of vegetables.  Carrots, peas, cucumber tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and even edemame are all vegetables kids might prefer over the usuals of broccoli and sprouts.

We keep it  light and varied but consistent.  The kids always get vegetables at meals.  And they always have to try new ones, but we don't flip out if they don't eat them, though we usually condition them getting something they like on eating at least some vegetables.

And I find most people either underestimate their kids or are can be pleasantly surprised by them.  Our kids eat salad fairly regularly.  They love vegetables cooked in olive oil and garlic, which takes the veggie benefits up a notch or two.

At the, they suggest parents be responsible for what, when and where kids eat, and kids be responsible for how much and whether they eat it.  Calorie needs vary day-by-day and meal-by-meal and kids will sometimes overeat and sometimes overeat.  So while your kid may not eat any veggies at lunch, maybe he puts away a cup of peas at dinner, surpassing his entire day's need for veggies.

So take a deep breath, offer a serving of veggies to your kid, and relax.



  1. I think a lot of parents worry about this and you have explained really well how much fruit and veg a child really needs. Thanks for linking up with #MultipleMadness

  2. Glad you thought it was useful. Thanks for stopping by.