The Washington Post

Teach kids to eat a full spectrum of good food

My boys are only 7 and 9, but the eye-rolling has begun. Last night I got it in spades. I started talking about what each color fruit and vegetable does for our bodies and why it is important to eat a rainbow of foods. Apparently, they have heard this too many times, because the minute I started talking they started rolling their eyes.

Because they are such experts, I asked whether they could please teach their toddler sister why each color food is good for her. I figured the timing was perfect, as she is learning her colors and body parts. They rolled their eyes at me again, asserting that a 1-year-old will not understand. But because they love to teach her anything, they went along with it. She relished all of the attention.

Here is what my boys told my daughter:

Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits are good for your eyes, so if you want to see a baseball pitch coming your way or be able to read at night, you should eat a lot of pineapple, yellow peppers and yellow summer squash.

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, blackberries, plums, eggplant and purple carrots have been shown to improve memory. If you want to remember all the things that Mom forgets, you should keep eating blue and purple foods.

Red foods, and unfortunately not the synthetic-dyed ones, support your heart (by decreasing heart disease risk, preventing hardening of blood vessels and reducing inflammation). So eat lots of raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon to help your heart pump.

Green vegetables are Mom’s favorites. They have been shown to help prevent cancer and other diseases, keep our blood healthy, and support the immune system that keeps us from getting sick. By keeping our blood healthy, green veggies give us energy, so eat lots of them if you want to keep up with your big brothers!

There are obviously more scientifically accurate reasons to eat your colors, but I thought my boys did a pretty good job. Life is colorful right now. The farmer’s markets are overflowing with yellow, orange, red, green and blue foods, so it couldn’t be simpler to eat the rainbow. And as I pointed out to my boys, it turns out it is not premature to teach a 1-year-old about nutrition. They just rolled their eyes.

Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company. Look for her posts on the On Parenting blog:

Casey Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company, and author of “The Super Food Cards,” a collection of healthful recipes and advice.



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