Eat your veggies!
"Matthew, eat your veggies!" I can still hear Mom's voice echoing even after all these years. I remember turning my nose up—and practically even sobbing—when she served just about any type of vegetable. Now my kids do the same—much to the chagrin of my wife and me. Like many, we're trying to eat right ourselves while also trying to promote healthy eating for our kids. Emphasis on "trying." Many times the inclusion of vegetables in a dish will literally lead to tears being shed at the dinner table by at least one child (which gives me a strange sense of déjà vu). We've found, however, that the more consistently we serve veggies over time, the more our kids gobble up their vegetables with the same zeal as their other food.
We know veggies are good. We know they contain vitamins and nutrients that keep us healthy and are a critical part of a lifestyle that helps prevent chronic diseases (See http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-why.html). Yet how many of us actually consume the recommended serving of vegetables per day? The USDA recommends that adult men and women, depending on age and level of physical activity, need between two and three cups of veggies per day.
Measuring out what actually constitutes a cup of vegetables varies depending on the kind of veggie (See http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables_amount_table.html). It's a bit daunting to think of converting your food into cups of servings: "Let's see, today I had six baby carrots (that's 1/2 cup of veggies), a cup of broccoli florets (all right—that's a cup), one large stalk of celery (1/2 cup) and a big baked sweet potato (one cup). All right, looks like I met my three-cup quota! Woohoo!"
The USDA offers this practical bit of advice: "Make half your plate fruit and vegetables." For me, that's a pretty concrete visual that works. While measuring out food in specific quantities like I did above would be ideal, a handy rule of thumb is to make sure that half of the food you dish up is fruit and vegetables. That way you can be sure you're getting what you need. But dishing up is one thing—eating it is another matter. Right, Mom?