Health Check: The Rainbow Connection

By Larissa Phillips

Can't get your kids to eat even one fruit or vegetable, never mind the five servings a day that are recommended by nutritionists? Try asking them to "eat a rainbow" every day.

Eating a little bit of every color will provide the phytochemicals and antioxidants that a body needs.

Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and fiber to protect against some of the most pervasive diseases in our culture, like heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Some researchers believe that we naturally respond to the beautiful deep hues of some of the most healthful vegetables - such as the green in broccoli, the blue of blueberries and the orange of carrots or citrus fruits - in order to get the nutrients weTr need.

Call them "fight-o-chemicals" and explain to your kids how these natural warriors help your body stay in fighting form. But don't be fooled by artificially colored foods, which may be preying on our natural preference for bright colors, with little or no nutritional value.

Easy ways to introduce more colorful veggies into your diet:

Try a variety of dips: Kids love having a multitude of dips to dunk their fruits and veggies in. By having a few options, your little ones will be able to taste how the flavors interact. If you're serving broccoli florets, try some Greek yogurt with lemon zest and a little spice. For celery sticks, try a Thai-style peanut dipping sauce to introduce your kids to more global flavors. 

Sneak 'em: Adding in purees of vegetables to foods your kids already eat is a great way to sneak veggies past even the pickiest of eaters. Butternut squash can be added to macaroni and cheese for an added vitamin boost. Throw veggies into breakfast smoothies to make sure that they're getting plenty of nutrients.

Get creative! Cutting veggies into fun shapes is also a good way to get younger kids to eat their veggies. Arranging a plate of veggies into a funny face or other design will help interest them in their food. 

Most importantly, set a good example: You can't expect your kids to eat their veggies if you won't eat yours. If you're having steamed broccoli with dinner and your kids are protesting, add some "special ingredients" (like garlic powder, nutritional yeast, or even a bit of cheese) that are just for the veggies. Ooh and aah over your veggie creation and see how long it takes the kids to get in on the veggie train.